Woolworths used to be on Comur St

The answer: in Comur Street, on the corner of Polding Street; although, not always.

In 1953, Yass Valley Council rate books showed that Woolworths owned 75, 77 and 79 Comur St, where Yass Valley Property is, in the Herfort building.

The Yass Tribune-Courier reported on October 3, 1950, that “…the main topic of conversation in business circles was whether Woolworths have paid sixteen thousand pounds for a Cooma Street property. 

Outside of the Herfort building, showing the original occupants. Picture by Yass & District Historical Society Collection. Circa 1880s.

Outside of the Herfort building, showing the original occupants. Picture by Yass & District Historical Society Collection. Circa 1880s.

“Interviewed this morning, Mrs Eddie Johnstone said she had been told her shop and the adjoining shop occupied by Mr John Andrews, jeweller had been sold to Woolworths.”

The fruit, vegetable and seed shop had been run by the Johnstone family for 66 years.

Advertising mirror from Johnstone’s store in Yass & District Museum. Picture by Susan O’Leary, YDHS.

Advertising mirror from Johnstone’s store in Yass & District Museum. Picture by Susan O’Leary, YDHS.

The story began in 1872 when Gus Herfort arrived in Yass. He was involved in painting signage and banners in the area. These included the Australian Store signage, Holy Catholic Guild banner and Wesleyan Sunday School banner.

In 1882, Herfort bought land from the Catholic Church in Comur St next to Casper’s building for eight pounds. By the mid-1880s, he had opened a photography studio in his new building and leased the remaining two shops to Nichols the saddlers and the other to Edward Johnstone who opened a fruit, vegetable and tobacconist store.

Rotating seed cabinet from Johnstone’s store in Yass & District Museum. Picture by Susan O’Leary YDHS.

Rotating seed cabinet from Johnstone’s store in Yass & District Museum. Picture by Susan O’Leary YDHS.

By 1911, ownership of the Herfort building had passed to JR Ross. By then, number 75 and 77 were occupied by the Johnstone’s store. Number 79 and premises upstairs held a variety of businesses including tailors, a dentist and several jewellery shops over the next forty years.

However, Johnstone’s store passed successfully down through several generations of the family.

Then, Woolworths bought the Herfort building. Perhaps, this may have meant the end of Johnstone’s store and the Herfort building.

Instead, by the mid-1950s, Woolworths had sold all three shops in the Herfort building to the Johnstone family. Their shop was to continue until October 1982, when the business closed and the Herfort building was sold. The Johnstone family had been in business in the building for 98 years!

You can see a colourful advertising mirror and fascinating revolving seed cabinet from Johnstone’s store at the Yass & District Museum, free museum weekend gala, Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21, 10am to 4pm.

So, what led Woolworths to change its mind about going into business in Yass in the 1950s?