The corner store was once the heart of Australian suburban life. Popping in for some bread, milk and a copy of the daily paper was part of most families’ weekly routines. Despite being lost in the age of modern supermarkets, many of the original corner store buildings stand as nostalgic reminders of a forgotten suburbia.
The W.G Marriott Family Grocer opened on the corner of Hay Street and Thomas Street in 1895. Like many other pre World War One builds, the corner store was attached to a residence where the grocer and his family lived. At this time, Subiaco was experiencing rapid residential development and the small store would have supported the growing local community in their need for household essentials.
Without motor vehicles, most residents of Subiaco would walk over to the corner store to pick up vegetables, tea, preserved meats, sweets, newspapers, liquor, soaps and other goods. Shop assistants would stand behind the counter and package the customer’s items into paper bags for them while having a yarn about the local neighborhood.
By the 1930’s, Subiaco was a well-developed inner-city suburb. The corner store had changed owners five times over the course of 30 years but continued to operate as a neighbourhood grocer. Situated beside the tram tracks that connected Subiaco to the rest of Perth, and neighbouring terrace houses that still exist today, the grocer occupied a prominent position within the suburb’s 1930’s streetscape.
During this period, Subiaco’s low paid workers and tradespeople lived in modest timber houses, mainly concentrated in the area to the north of Bagot Road, while professional men and their families lived in federation style brick houses on larger lots towards the south and south-east of the suburb and along Thomas Street. Unfortunately for them, the poorer workers had to pass the corner shop on their way to their jobs in the richer parts of town, picking up their groceries from the store on their way home.
Despite regularly changing ownership, the building continued to operate as a corner store until the early 1980’s, when it was turned into a liquor store. In 1992, Acton Real Estate moved into the building and the company remains there today. While the building isn’t used as a corner store anymore, it retains its original structure, reminding generations of Subiaco locals of suburban memories.
Sources: Heritage Assessment of Corner Stores in Subiaco, prepared by Annette Green, City of Subiaco, published 2015; Images courtesy of ACTON Central.