Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

People Loved to Meet at Pigotts; the Iconic Toowoomba Retail Store Pigotts Closed in August 30 Years Ago and Reporter Peter Hardwick Catches Up with Company Director Jim Pigott with His Fond Memories of the Staff and Store

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

People Loved to Meet at Pigotts; the Iconic Toowoomba Retail Store Pigotts Closed in August 30 Years Ago and Reporter Peter Hardwick Catches Up with Company Director Jim Pigott with His Fond Memories of the Staff and Store

Article excerpt

FOR more than 80 years, Pigotts department store was the shopping experience for most people in Toowoomba.

Whether it was a new outfit - beit for the woman, man or child - household goods, hardware tools or just somewhere to meet friends over a cuppa and lunch, Pigotts in the CBD was the place to be.

Anyone who lived in Toowoomba and surrounds up until the early 1980s would know and remember Pigotts.

The family business actually started in Brisbane after Michael Daniel Pigott migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1885 with his wife and young family.

Pigott and Company had traded in Stanley St until the disastrous Brisbane floods of 1893 set back trade until, in 1896 Michael Pigott moved his family to Toowoomba.

Originally opening in Russell St next to the Criterion Hotel, Pigott and Company eventually moved to more substantial premises in Ruthven St "right in the heart of town".

It was one of 40 businesses listed in the 1898 Groom's Darling Downs Almanac and remained at the Ruthven St site (where Amart Furniture now stands) until closing in 1983.

However, the Pigott family faced more adversity when the Ruthven St store was destroyed by fire on July 8, 1909.

"Messrs Pigott and Company's draper's establishment, undoubtedly the finest business establishment in Toowoomba, was last night razed to the ground by the fire fiend", reported The Chronicle at the time.

The store was soon rebuilt and offering a wider variety of goods with a new frontage added in 1936, the facade of which still stands today.

Just as his father Frank, who took over the business upon the death of Michael Pigott in 1927, Jim Pigott started working for the family business upon leaving school at Downlands College.

"I started off sweeping the floors, licking stamps and running to the post office," Mr Pigott, now 92, remembered.

Apart from five years with the RAAF in World War Two, Mr Pigott remained with the company, eventually being appointed a joint managing director.

"The food court came later on and eventually we expanded into Margaret St (where JB Hi-Fi now stands)," Mr Pigott said.

"The food hall incorporated a butcher's shop, bakery, coffee lounge and cafeteria.

"It also included an extensive take-away section, a fruit department and a small grocery department.

"It was always a department store and, including the Warwick store, we usually employed about 300 to 350, with extra staff put on for the Christmas period."

Mr Pigott recalled a police officer knocking on his office door one day and wondering if he was in some sort of trouble.

"He told me there was someone having morning tea in the cafeteria who wanted to meet me.

"I went to the cafeteria to find (then premier) Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his wife. …

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