A predecessor of present day discount variety stores was Royal Red Arcade originally located in Nicholas Street, Ipswich. It opened on Saturday 1st December 1894 offering a large variety of household goods for sale including toys, basketware, books, stationery and fancy goods. Because it was nearly Christmas, seasonal cards and fireworks were also available, as well as the enticement of a “shilling table” or bargain table.
The Red Arcade would turn out to be very familiar to many Queenslanders as the proprietor Russell Wilkins opened a chain of stores throughout the state and Newcastle. Branches were located in Townsville, Toowoomba, Maryborough and Mackay to name a few. Wilkins’ Brisbane store was established around 1891 in the CBD, close to the Post Office. The Ipswich branch of the Red Arcade was fated to have an unsettled history of re-locations and interruptions to service.
In August 1904 the Red Arcade moved to the corner of Brisbane and Nicholas Streets, known as Greenham’s block or Greenham’s corner (later known as Nolan’s Corner). The store continued to service the trade and public, filling postal orders, holding sales and providing “good value for money”. That year their Christmas window display excited interest in town. It featured a doll’s tea party including a doll house and various toy vehicles apparently conveying their passengers to Dolly’s Tea Party. Two years later the Red Arcade was sold to Mr Arnold Georgeson who employed William Hughes as store manager. Mr Hughes was a native of North Ipswich and in all probability was related to Georgeson’s wife Maggie.
At the beginning of 1909 Hughes became proprietor and soon after the location of the store moved “opposite Cribb & Foote’s new sweet shop.” This was still in Brisbane Street but near the Australian Joint Stock Bank (A.J.S.), soon to be renamed Australian Bank of Commerce (A.B.C.). Almost immediately business appears to have gone downhill for the new owner, resulting eventually in bankruptcy. Advertisements for a large clearing sale appeared in October the following year describing the Red Arcade as “the shop painted red, opposite the A.B.C. Bank” which was situated on the corner of Brisbane & Bell Streets. Bacelie Martoo acquired some of the bankrupt stock and offered it for sale. Martoo dealt in insolvent stock and had auction rooms as well as his own retail establishment supplying similar stock lines near the Club Hotel and Whiteheads Studio, further west on Brisbane Street. This local entrepreneur also traded from a shop “opposite the A.J.S. Bank”, perhaps taking over the former Red Arcade premises when it closed its doors.
From 1911-1913 the name Red Arcade disappeared from sight. In 1914 it appears to have been revived, once again located in Nicholas Street, and closing again when the lease ran out in December of that year. From 1915-1926, its history is obscured however the name does have another run.
The last known location of the Red Arcade in Ipswich was East Street. This business advertised furniture, pianos and sewing machines for sale rather than the smaller household items and fancy goods previously expected. By 1933 advertising in the local paper had petered out, perhaps indicative of the effects of the Great Depression.
The Brisbane Courier, 18 August 1891, p.2. Classified Advertising.Information taken from: