In the 1980's Grace Bros were keen to open a store in the St George area. Southside Plaza at Rockdale (redeveloped into Rockdale Plaza) was touted as a possible site with the centre keen to expand.
Meanwhile, David Jones had their eyes on Hurstville with a possible site floated on a new shopping centre on Queens Road near the current site of Hurstville Library. That never eventuated.
Westfield was keen to expand their Hurstville centre which had opened in 1978 with 120 shops anchored by Waltons, Coles & Nock & Kirbys. Under the expansion, the number of retailers would double to about 240, the current number of retailers trading today.
Grace Bros ended up going to Hurstville to join the expanded centre, along with fellow Coles-Myer discount department store - Kmart. The expansion was approved by Hurstville Council in late 1987.
Source: Westfield Group. 1990. "Westfield Shoppingtown Hurstville" (Advertisement). The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, April 5: 17.
On April 10, 1990, the store was officially opened to shoppers with hundreds of locals queuing up to snap up a bargain. Grace Bros Ambassador Deborah Hutton was on hand to oversee proceedings. It took one hour for the store to rake $51 000 in sales. Apparently, one shopper reportedly bought a bed within minutes of the store opening.
Source: Anonymous. 1990. "Crowds surge to buy at new GBs." The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, April 12: 3.
Growing up in the 1990s, Grace Bros was the department store that I was taken to for shopping. One family custom was to get our school shoes there. I remember that Grace Bros had it all, even though it was nowhere near the size of stores in the city or elsewhere.
But in the past few years, it just had gone downhill. My comments to a recent article in The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, would sum up where it is now. It did end up being published in the St George print edition of the same paper. I didn't get to see it in print as my local (Sutherland Shire) edition did not publish it.
What does it mean for Hurstville? I'm concerned about its status as a shopping centre. Department Stores may not be the anchor for a shopping centre as they used to be, but they carry a symbolic meaning in terms of the reputation of the centre itself. Already people have said they will shop elsewhere.
No longer it feels good to shop in Hurstville.