The Beginning of Harrys Menswear
Three Generations of Sutton Family in the Rag Trade
Three generations of Sutton Family in the rag trade survived depression, floods, fire, ram raids and break and enters. Harry Williamson Sutton was the second eldest of eight sons and four daughters to
William Williamson Sutton, who as a young Englishman arrived in Australia in the early nineteen hundreds. The history of the Sutton family may have well been rewritten. Had his bride to be, a young Scottish lady from Glasgow named Miss Ellen Mc Kechnie had not fallen ill, for the ship she would have travelled on to Australia, ill-fated ship ”The Dunbar” which sank off Sydney harbour near the gap. All crew and passengers were lost. She arrived on the next ship safely. The home, which the family was reared in, a small stone cottage in Cobra Street, facing directly into Carrington Ave, where the present Countryman Motel is now standing. Only a few years ago the cottage was pulled down to make way for progress. Strangely enough, an invitation to Harry Suttons wedding was found having slipped down the back of the fire mantelpiece.
Harry’s father William Williamson Sutton had arrived in Australia to make his fortune with the help of a partner. They brought with them several hayricks looms to manufacture material and patents rights for the first iron beds to be made in Australia. Unfortunately, his partner absconder with the belongings and he had to be content to continue with the trade he had been trained in. The building trade. He certainly left his mark in Dubbo in that direction. Most buildings stand today.
The earliest being the Shire Chambers which is now the Hog’s Breath Café. The Catholic presbytery and although himself, not a Catholic was well thought of by the priest and he did all the repair work on the church over the years. The old location of the museum which was built as a bank and now after many businesses is now home to the Old Bank Restaurant.Cardiff homestead next to the old Bennett’s brickworks where the Bennet family lived for many years.
One of the latest buildings finished by one of the sons was the now Macquarie Bowling Club which was built as a bank managers residents.
Harry was the only son who did not wish to be an apprentice's son in the building trade. In the meantime Harry had grown to a youth of fifteen and took his first job as a cashier in the store of J.B.Brown and in those days the cashier sat in his booth above the shop and all dockets, money and change were by aerial runways either gravity feed or spring loaded. In his first week of employment, being human, he made an error. Mr Brown must have been a very close stern master because as he checked the dockets he found an overcharge of one shilling [ten cents] Mr Brown accosted young Harry with the following "Sutton I don't employ you to rob me or my customer so you will be deducted one shilling from your wages this week. [salary a measly ten shillings, one dollar ] so a shilling was quite a loss. He survived those early days and managed to stay in the firm's employment for thirty years.
During that time the firm changed hands. First being known as the western Stores with branches at Narromine and Orange. Later at other centres and at a much later date after Harry's association, Edgeley, Myer then Grace Brothers and now Myers.
Again During Harry's time, the Western Stores required a soft goods shop owned by a Mr Gregory. A Mr A.L.Johnson who was in charge and eventually Harry held the reigns for a while. This shop was situated next to the Dubbo Hotel [corner of Talbragar & Darling St] the hotel then was known as the Occidental Hotel and was hosted by a William Wilkins a son of the well known Wilkins, Kennedy and Sons. It was there a young lady named Una Wilton who was visiting her aunt Mrs Wilkins for a Holiday and meets her husband to be next door, Harry Sutton. They married in 1910 and by 1917 had three children, John, Jean & Bruce. It was in the year 1923 that Harry decided to break away from being employed and entered into business with a partner Mr Tom Cantrell in the premises now known as Naylor's Hardware. This short-lived partnership lasting only to 1925. In Late 1927 Harry was able to make up enough resources to start his own business in a small shop which now stands at the corner of Talbragar & Carrington Ave and is now occupied by a takeaway shop.
It was in this store in the ten years that Harry & his family saw many changes in the country's economical crisis. He was elated in the first few years and said to his wife, a few more years like this and I'll be able to retire. An example of the extreme buoyancy and perhaps wishfulness of the era. Working men who were rabbiting for a living were earning sixty pounds [120 dollars] a week. they would come to the store to buy a fine crepe china silk shirt for fifty-five shillings [five dollars fifty cents] and the next wash it would become a work shirt. Then came the big collapse. The depression, there is no need to dwell on this era too much, good tradesman had no jobs and even the most respectable people had to apply for the dole. Harry managed to stay away from this need, however, he ran pretty close to the wind for most of that time. Average week's takings in the good old days would be eighteen to twenty pounds. Goods sold costing around twelve pounds left him with a balance of six pounds of which he had to pay rent and other expenses and feed his family. There was not much left, string and paper had to be saved to rap up customers goods. Then to make matters a little worse in the early 1930's the landlord who owned the next door premises let in opposition business.
By the year 1933 son Bruce had left school and joined his father in the business he would clearly have loved to get another job for an experience away from his dad. However, jobs were scarce and living away from home was impracticable financially.
By 1936 Bruce had convinced Harry his father it was time to shift premises... Jack Whyte who had a furniture shop further down Talbragar St next to Marcus Clarks had a vacancy to let next door. Jack Whyte, Harry W Sutton and Jimmy Brady where all good neighbours. Harry & his son Bruce rented these premises for two pounds ten shillings first up. Things took a turn for the better. Christmas trading week was seventy pounds, Harry had turned the corner with the business. The shop was long and narrow and was hard to fill with stock with limited finance.
In this Photo, the stores when out of there way for the royal visit in 1955. Note the miniature royal guards on top of each store.
Being In Talbragar street meant that you had a lot of contact with fellow traders and in the same street. One other trader in Talbragar street was Foy & Gibson formerly Gilpin's. It was here that young Bruce Sutton meets his wife Joan McKay, They married in 1950 and had three children Peter, David & daughter Jenny.
With his family growing and many events such as the 1955 floods, the burning down of Marcus Clarkes right next door certainly put our resources to the test.
Flood in Talbragar St Dubbo 1955
Grand Opening in early 1900's
Next, the shoplifting became a real headache. But like most retailers, we took these in our stride and keep trading before we meet our next challenges that being ram-raider, not once but three times in a matter of months just in time for Christmas.
The eldest son of Bruce & Joan (Peter) had left school and not keen to take on the family business had taken up an apprenticeship with Davey Air Service as Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. On finishing his apprenticeship and a downturn in the industry he thought that he would like to give retailing a go once more. Being little older and with fashion now becoming a major part of the younger generation the opportunities seemed a lot brighter. Having moved further down Talbragar St to bigger and new premises Peter quickly identified that Denim jeans we're here for the long-term and talked his father into adding a second story to the existing store. Even though we did not own the premises our landlord was very amicable in coming to a suitable arrangement. From this beginning, the face of retailing had changed forever with specially stores now become commonplace specialising in fashion clothing for the youth. Jeanery's where now popping up all around the country and the Sutton Family became part of this growing trend.
Photo Taken with our unique signage. (known as the Amco Boy)
In 1980 the Suttons Family had purchase a property in Macquarie St formerly owned by the Coles Company. The history of this site had its beginning as a Masonic Lodge Hall where many functions and social gathering for the townspeople where held. With the redevelopment allowed the shop to be expanded on a single level which allowed our younger customers who loved coming upstairs previously could not make it upstairs with prams and young children. From 1980 to 2000 Suttons Clothing company was leading the way with new and exciting fashion trends. With denim jeans playing a major role in fashion it was becoming clear that there was another trend emerging, that being the lifestyle of surfwear clothing. With the hardcore brands such as RipCurl, Quicksilver & Billabong mainly catering for the surfers in our coastal regions. Peter quickly realized that the regional customers where keen to wear the lifestyle clothing for its great look and its practicality in making a fashion statement. This trend became a huge success for both the retail industry as well as those manufactures catering to the surfing industry. It could be said that the regional areas in Australia is what gave the surfing brands the momentum to becoming the success they came.
Entering into the 1990's things had changed in the clothing industry with the Government dropping the tariffs and the manufacturers now manufacturing off shoe and the emergence of China's influence on the export/import markets put pressure on those manufactures to meet larger and larger minimums on the quantity on clothing to maintain prices. This in turn put pressure on retailers to buy more and consequently flooding the markets
1999 and closed the doors for what seemed to be the last time.
This turned out not to be the case and after 17 years out of the retail industry Peter decided that it was time to get back into retail. But this time our clear direction was to provide quality clothing at the right price and concentrate on awesome service. Our age demographic was to aim at a more mature market and to provide a unique difference in style.
First thing we had to decide on what we should call our store that was simple and generic and easy to remember but still retain our long history in the industry. My Grandfather Harry Sutton who started it all back in 1927 calling his store Harry Suttons so it was quite easy to just call our new store Harry's for Menswear. Plus the name Harry had a high profile person in Prince Harry who was quite popular along with new parents naming their baby boys Harry.
Now with our name confirmed it was time to look for a location and as Talbragar St was where it all started we looked to see what was available. Walking down the street we notice a for sale sign on one shop that would be ideal which turned out to be a previous menswear store call George Coopers who had a great business in mens suits. After successfully securing the shop and on the 4th July 2016 we were back in business. Little did I know at the time that after two years back into retail our specialty is Mens Suits. Not sure if George would be happy or a bit annoyed if he were alive today.
After 17 years out of retail the the advancement in technology has certainly changed the way we now market ourselves and communicate with both our suppliers and customers. Having a passion with computers since their inception it was a natural progression to take our new store online. Our business model only allowed a 3% online sale component as we are a great believer when it comes to mens fashion its about Touch, Feel & Try. This has proven to be the case but I have to say our online sales are starting to have an impact, but only for those products that consumers are confident about size and the expectations they believe come with the product.
Like many business online its about gaining confidence in our ability to supply and deliver plus the communications that goes with every purchase. This is where we are at now and hopefully we will be able to continue with providing aweson service well beyond our 100th birthday in the ragtrade.