This article by Glebe historian Max Solling, first appeared in the Glebe Society Bulletin in May/June 1999.

There had been a catholic array of shops in Bay and Glebe Streets and along Broadway from an early date, since the hard core of intensive residential development in Glebe was concentrated in this neighbourhood. Noxious trades, established when slaughter houses dotted the edge of Blackwattle Swamp, remained in the precinct after the abattoirs opened at Glebe Island in 1860. The odours emitting from Thomas Dunn’s and John Dorrington’s tanneries, from William Pritchard’s candle works and Terrence McArdell’s soap and candle factory were particularly offensive. Among the shops in Broadway (between Bay Street and Glebe Road) in 1900 were Jesson’s bookshop, Butter’s chemist shop, an oyster saloon, Howitt’s printing shop, hairdresser Maggie Wellman and, at 29 (but now numbered 231) Broadway, Arthur Merrington’s jewellery shop, operating as A M Merrington & Sons, Optometrists, until December 1989, when Mr Merrington retired.

Cash desk, Grace Bros. Photographer: Sam Hood (1872 - 1953) State Library of NSW
Cash desk, Grace Bros. Photographer: Sam Hood (1872 – 1953)
State Library of NSW

The Brothers Grace
Grace Brothers were expanding in all directions, expelling the noxious trades. Joseph Grace opened a drapery at 5-7 Broadway in 1885 and a little later his brother Albert joined him in the business.

By 1892 they had taken over three adjoining shops and added glassware and imported boots to the items they sold; in 1896 a four-storey building was erected at the rear of Grace Street. Further extensions with clock tower, globe and an electricity power house were built in 1904 and the Broadway front was rebuilt in 1906. Many Glebe people found employment at Grace Bros whose slogan was :


The firm relied heavily on junior sales assistants, and the employer’s slogan was parodied by staff as :


The removal, storage and shipping division emerged out of the firm’s retail furniture business to become the largest of its type in Australia. George Finch, a well known identity, acquired Hay’s tailor shop at 13 Glebe Road and displayed a slogan that also became embedded in the minds of local people :

Fit and
First and
Morning tea, Grace Bros. Photographer: Sam Hood (1872 - 1953) State Library of NSW
Morning tea, Grace Bros.
Photographer: Sam Hood (1872 – 1953)
State Library of NSW

Grace Bros with some 200 employees in 1914, was providing stiff competition to Glebe’s seven drapers and 16 bootmakers and ironmongers. Business and reading interests were catered for by three book-sellers, three newsagents, a stationer and the Workingmen’s Institute. There were eight pharmacists, including the Sydney United Friendly Society Dispensary and C H West, who worked as a chemist and dentist, nine doctors and nine dentists. Forty-four grocers and 19 butchers competed with one another and with the provision dealers and the solitary ham and beef shop. In 1914 there were three Glebe jewellers and a photographer, seven dressmakers, 13 hairdressers and five laundries, including W H Lanham and Co (3 Forest Street) and the West End Steam Laundry (56-58 Bay Street). There were also two fishmongers, six milk vendors, six fruiterers, four bakers, six confectioners and four fuel merchants.