Nesbitt’s Inverell retail history

BEGINNINGS: Early days in front of the Nesbitt's retail presence in Inverell.
BEGINNINGS: Early days in front of the Nesbitt's retail presence in Inverell.

Rivers Store in Otho Street, formerly Nesbitt’s, has an interesting history dating back to 1902.

Although the date on this building says 1919, it was built following a disastrous fire in April 1902 when several timber shops were destroyed. Designed by Sydney architect, JB Spencer, it was one of many new brick buildings constructed in Inverell and has some similar features to his design for the Byron Arcade. 

The building was one of two adjoining Otho Street shops built for Mr HN McLean. His brother Major AA McLean and Major CG Lydiard opened a General Merchants business here in 1903. Both men had served together during the war in South Africa.

The new building was lit with acetylene lighting and the gallery upstairs became the furniture department. Groceries, clothing and ironmongery were among their large stocks and they advertised claiming to be ‘unrivalled in the north’. By 1922 both men were unwell and so sold their remaining stock and closed the business.

Further down the street, in a building owned by Thomas Mather, was the drapery, ladies clothing and haberdashery business of Mr. A. Eggins. Pollock Bros of Sydney purchased this business in 1915.  

Four years later, Mr PJ Nesbitt purchased Pollock Brothers to conduct a ‘Ladies and Children’s Specialty House’. Mr Nesbitt advertised himself as ‘the busy cash draper’. By 1927, Nesbitt’s store had moved to McLean’s premises. The front was extensively renovated and included polished cedar doors with bevelled glass panels.

An aerial cash system, sometimes called a ‘flying fox’ was used to process a customer’s cash payment. Money was placed in a small canister attached to an overhead wire and transported to the cashier upstairs. The change and docket/receipt was then returned to the sales person to give to the customer.

This store, although renovated several times, still retains its timber balustrade upstairs and the beautiful pressed metal ceiling. Many Inverell residents remember the quality blankets, linen, knitting wool and lingerie sold by Nesbitt’s and the excellent service provided by the friendly staff.