Back in the early part of last century, commercial traveller Ashley Storey could see that Gunnedah had great potential as a retail centre – so he established a business in the town.

That business, Storeys Pty Ltd, of Gunnedah, remained in the one location for 81 years before its closure in 1988.

Ashley Storey first visited Gunnedah as a representative of Holdsworthy MacPherson, a big hardware house in Sydney, in 1906.

He was quick to recognise that Gunnedah had great potential for commercial development – it was the year after the sub-division of Burburgate, creating new farms and bringing new families to the district. Wheat was being grown extensively, a flour mill had only recently been established and the municipality was about to install a reticulated water supply.

At the age of 27, the keen young businessman acquired the small general store of Hugh Pentecost in Conadilly Street and on February 1, 1907, A. Storey and Co, opened for business with a staff of five.

His faith in the business prospects of Gunnedah and his ability to provide a service to a growing community yielded a quick dividend. A year after he had launched his business, his staff had grown to nine and in 1909 he persuaded his brother George to join him in the venture.

Staff of Storeys in 1957. Back left, George Melick, Bill Humphries, Charlie Scott, Frank Chapman, Eric Gibbons, Rex Pyne, Ted Bindley and Ray Palmer. Front left, Kay Cochran, Shirley Murray, Bob Hughes, Jack Fiddes, Beverley Tudgey and Sarah Austill.

Other staff members of Storeys in 1957. Back left, Jim Scott, Judy Leary, George Kirkpatrick, Grace Simpson, Barry Horder, Betty Shuttlewood, Ken Bush, Lenore Andren and Percy Bramall. Front left, Win O’Brien, Val Lochrey, Jill Anderson, Joyce Cochrane, George Storey, Sylvia Allan, Shirley McCallum and Kath Mercer.

George had started out in the dressgoods department of David Jones Sydney before joining the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd.

The cornerstone of the Storey brothers’ business was service – they even introduced a horse-and-cart home delivery service. Their zeal and business acumen enabled the business to flourish despite the difficulties imposed by World War 1. In the period up to 1924 the store was expanded with the acquisition of adjoining premises, giving the firm frontage of 130 feet to Conadilly Street, compared with the original 30-foot frontage in 1907. At its peak, Storey’s occupied an area of 22,000 square feet and employed more than 40 staff.

In 1957 adjoining premises were leased from the Baker family and then purchased a year later. A self-service food department was established in 1958 and a furniture emporium made Storeys a modern and complete department store.

The Storey brothers were extremely active in the community. Ashley Storey was heavily involved in the Gunnedah Show Society and was a foundation member and soon after president of the Rotary Club of Gunnedah, formed in 1939.

Ashley Storey, general merchant of Gunnedah. He purchased the business of Hugh Pentecost in 1907, the Storey family name remaining a prominent part of Gunnedah business life for more than 80 years.

For many years he was superintendent of the Church of England Sunday School. He served on the local Repatriation Committee after World War 1. His death occurred on August 7, 1944, as a result of a heart attack. The funeral cortege was described as the largest ever seen in Gunnedah.

George Storey was closely connected with the hospital, serving on the board and taking a leading role in an appeal which raised a large amount of money for a new hospital. He was also an alderman on Gunnedah Municipal Council. He died in 1974 at the age of 89.

Another prominent figure in the history of Storeys was JA (Jack) Fiddes, who served the store as accountant for 32 years and later as general manager and director. He died in 1968.

The announcement of the closure of Storeys in 1988 came as a shock to Gunnedah residents. Directors attributed the decision to several factors, including the economic downturn in the rural area and changing patterns in retailing and shopper preference.

The age and health of directors was another factor and although the store had not been trading at a loss, its closure was seen as an economic inevitability.

Storeys in Gunnedah at about the time of the business closure in 1988.

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