Backward Glance: Nambour provides a window into the Sunshine Coast early retail history
  • Wednesday 16 November 2016
Historically Nambour was the capital of the Sunshine Coast then known as the Near North Coast. 

The character of Nambour town and the range of shopfronts reflect a different era and building style to more recent business centres on the Coast. 

Nambour’s role as a business centre dates back to the opening of the North Coast railway line in 1891 when the town then known as Petrie’s Creek, was renamed Nambour.

A trip to town to pick up provisions and do the shopping has been a regular part of the Nambour heritage.

Some Nambour shop facades have not changed a great deal since the early times and their physical features reveal a lot about how early residents bought and sold their goods and services in a particular place and time. 

Many Nambour shops hold a special place in this community’s memory. 

The window displays and signs advertising a business, the high ceilings and skylights all tell a story. 

The general store from a bygone era with its glass cabinets, timber countertops and shelves extending along walls with items at times suspended from the ceiling were all highly organised with an atmosphere of clutter. 

Stock stacked and displayed on tables with racks of merchandise strategically placed throughout the store were commonplace. 

Customers were given personalised service and everyone knew everyone in those times.

The specialist shops such as butcher with his window full of meats of all kinds, the baker with open racks of freshly baked loaves just out of the oven, the barber known by his traditional red and white ‘barber’s pole’ and the pharmacy that dispensed essential cures and prescriptions were all vital parts of the bustling community. 

The early streets of Nambour were officially named in 1896. 

Two of the street names Mitchell and Currie Street (previously the Gympie Road) have not changed since that time however the naming of McNab Street was later changed to Howard Street. 

It is estimated the first cane tram line was constructed in Howard Street in about 1897 where wagons of sugar cane were pulled to the Moreton Mill by teams of horses. 

Howard Street has been the location of businesses such as a Tucker’s Blacksmith, Mr Fred Gilmore’s Wax Factory, a canning factory and many other diverse businesses.

Currie Street was originally named to honour Daniel Currie, the father of Maroochy Divisional Board member John Currie who with other board members D Mitchell and J McNab were part of the official committee chosen to name Nambour streets. 

The Currie family at one time owned the general store, a butcher shop and also a hotel in the main street of Nambour town. 

Lowe’s family butchers and ice manufacturers located in Currie Street advertised “Better meat is not obtainable” and “small goods made on the premises”. 

While strolling down Currie Street in 1908, shoppers would have encountered E Deegan’s Tinsmith Shop selling all kinds of tinware and W Coles the greengrocer advertising fireworks as well as his staple lines of fruit and vegetables. 

Close to Christmas, J Lowes Butcher Shop advertised trussed fowls ready for the oven and A Tucker not only sold fruit and vegetables, his special line was tombstones. 

After selling his cordial factory to Wimmers in 1910, George Pitman caused excitement in town when he arrived back from a trip to Melbourne with Nambour’s first private car.
He transported the automobile from Brisbane by rail to Nambour and when he pulled into the back of his old cordial factory a horse grazing nearby jumped the fence and had to be restrained. 

Later, as automobiles became more popular Nambour had many garages. 

The Returned Soldiers Garage situated in Currie Street was known as one of the best in town. 

Many fires have changed the town landscape and in 1914, the Commercial Hotel and 15 buildings were destroyed between the corner of Currie and Howard Streets and Petrie Creek.

In 1939, Nambour Chamber of Commerce unveiled a plaque honouring James Lowe and his contribution to the town of Nambour. Lowe Street was later named after him. 

The largest mixed business was that of W Whalley which sold everything the customer would ever need. It contained hardware and groceries with goods displayed in two large glass shop fronts. 

There was also a special display of sandshoes, if perhaps you wanted to visit the seaside. 

Stores such as Whalley’s served customers over the counter and sent orders out by delivery, with an account at the end of the month. 

It an unfortunate turn of events fire again caused major destruction in Nambour when Whalley’s store and adjoining buildings were razed in 1946.

Make sure you check out Backward Glance again next week for the continuation of this dedication to Nambour’s retail history which will pick up from the 1950s.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions:
Hero: Currie Street, Nambour, looking north along the eastern side from Chadwick Chambers towards the Royal Hotel, ca 1938.

Carousel images:
1: Bullock team in front of William Whalley's Store at the northern end of Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1909.
2: Whalley's Motor and Engineering Works and adjacent business premises, looking south along Currie Street, Nambour, 1930.
3: A. J. Dingwall's Grocery Store, Currie Street, Nambour, 1930.
4: Lowe's Ice Works & Butchers shop, Currie Street, Nambour, ca 1935.