31 years since 'The Factory' closed
Today, Tuesday 19 March 2019, marks 31 years since we closed our Wanganui East store at 91-93 Duncan Street, which was fondly known as ‘The Factory’. This site is where Wanganui Furniture Manufacturing Co. (the original name for Wanganui Furnishers) began business as a furniture factory and showroom in 1916. It remained a part of Wanganui Furnishers for 72 years, and the site had some major transformations in that time.
The Wanganui East factory and store front in the early days. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
A fire in 1921 completely gutted the factory but the three young partners immediately set about replacing the premises with a larger and more modern building. New power operated plant was installed which replaced the damaged plant that was run by an old gas engine. At the same time, to meet the needs of an increasing retail business, extensions were made to the showroom and to the upholstery and mattress making departments.
A staff photo taken outside the Duncan Street factory and shop in 1939 to commemorate the making of tables and chairs for the cafetaria at the NZ Exhibition held in Wellington in 1940.
In 1961, fire struck the premises again. This allowed re-organisation and modernisation of the workshop and showroom, and the newly purchased Victoria Ave store.
By 1967 manufacturing such a wide range of furniture had become uneconomical as larger manufacturers were concentrating on mass production of limited lines. The directors therefore reluctantly made the decision to close the furniture manufacturing department so they could place more emphasis on retailing a wide range of furnishings at a lower cost. The company had been operating a factory for 50 years, employing in its hey-day over 30 cabinet makers.
After some remodelling and new development of the Victoria Ave and St Hill St sites in 1976, the flooring department moved from Duncan St to its current location in St Hill St. In 1985 the curtain department also moved to our Victoria Ave showroom. Moving the furniture and beds department from Duncan St completed the exercise of centralising the business in Victoria Ave, so on 19 March 1988 ‘The Factory’ retail store closed too.
It’s with great fondness that we remember the original Wanganui Furnishers site in Duncan St, Wanganui East. Unfortunately, the old building was demolished in 2011 to make way for new homes.
Posted: Tuesday 19 March 2019