Ferry’s faces closure
Monday, 23rd September, 2019
Saturday marked the 31st anniversary of the opening of Ferry’s in its current location at 341 Argent Street.
Despite it being an unusually hot 38 degrees Celsius on its opening day 31 years ago, crowds of people poured in to the shop for the opening day sales and celebrations.
From today, customers will once more benefit from a massive sale, but on this occasion it will be to mark the end of an era for this iconic local store.
Unless the business is sold beforehand, it will cease trading at the end of October.
The closing of Ferry’s Haberdashery and Gift shop will end a 68-year love affair with the city’s retail sector and its shoppers who have supported the business over six decades.
Long-time proprietor Rosie Mary Ferry, who passed away in 2016 after 65 years in the business, certainly left her mark in local retail history.
She is remembered fondly as a very shrewd and capable businesswoman and an incredibly generous supporter of many organisations and charities in Broken Hill, throughout the Far West and as far north as Bourke.
An article appearing in the BDT on August 6, 2011, celebrating Rosie’s record run of 60 years in business, described Ferry’s as “one of the most respected names in the history of Broken Hill” and Rosie as “the longest-serving businesswoman continuously in the city”.
BDT columnist Bushy Burke wrote in June 2016: “As far as Broken Hill’s retail trade is concerned her name is royalty.”
Rosie enjoyed enormous success with her businesses which, she attributed to her great love of the retail sector and simply selling what her customers wanted and what they asked for.
“I don’t knit, don’t sew and I don’t do craft - but I try to buy whatever is asked for. Some suppliers tell me we have the best stocked shop of this type in Australasia,” Rosie had said when asked why Ferry’s had had such an incredible run.
Although not a craftsperson herself, she was shrewd enough to employ people who were. Her customers have always remarked on the exceptional service they receive when they shop at Ferry’s and this is one of the reasons for its high standing in the community.
Rosie’s niece Susan said visitors to Broken Hill keep returning to the store year after year because they have always found it to be a marvellous treasure trove.
“Visitors tell me all the time that shops like Ferry’s do not exist in the cities and are becoming harder and harder to find in the country towns as well,” Susan said.
“They find stock here they don’t see anywhere else. This always amazes me.”
The Ferry’s story began with a mixed business at 530 McGowan Street in 1951 under the name of AR & RM Ferry. With the help of her brother, Phillip Ferry, Rosie purchased a group of commercial blocks in the McCulloch Street shopping precinct, and moved Ferry’s into the double block on the corner of McGowan and McCulloch Streets, where she continued to run the business from 1954 to 1974.
Booming sales in her haberdashery lines meant that Rosie soon outgrew the mixed business. Thus began a series of moves and expansions for Ferry’s, beginning with the opening of a second shop in 1969 at 29 Oxide Street, dedicated to haberdashery and craft supplies.
In 1978, Rosie added another outlet in the Royal Exchange building on the corner of Argent and Chloride streets, selling jewellery and fine giftware as well.
In 1984, she bought more retail space at 355 Argent Street then finally consolidated her businesses with the purchase of the much larger Middleton’s store in 1988 where she continued to operate her Haberdashery and Gift shop until her death in October 2016.
Ferry’s is now seeking a new owner. Susan says the business will ideally suit someone who has an interest in maintaining the store as a prime supplier of quality fabrics, wool, haberdashery, craft and cake decorating materials.
There is no other supplier in town for these items. Customers desperately want to see the shop remain open.
According to Susan, for the haberdashery side of things to survive, the shop, which had in the past kept a large range of special occasion giftware, fine jewellery, religious gifts, souvenirs and other gift items, will need to shift some of its focus at least to supporting the handmade market.
“With its large premises, the business lends itself well to the creation of maker spaces which will allow a variety of sewing, knitting, crochet and craft workshops to be carried out in-store,” Susan said.
“Artisans can then rent space within the shop to sell their beautifully hand-crafted items. It’s a win-win formula.
“The CBD no longer has a jewellery store or a menswear store and there’ll always be a market for special occasion gifts, however, with a creative community like we have in Broken Hill, full of artisans, hobbyists and craft makers we definitely need Ferry’s to continue to operate in this space.”
If this sounds like the business for you, the time to come forward is now.
“If the business does not sell, it will need to close very soon. At this stage I am looking at closing the store by the end of October. It’s the last thing I want. The thought of yet another shop closing in town brings me a lot of sorrow.”
Susan is very grateful for the loyal service over many decades from the wonderful staff of Ferry’s, who are also saddened by the closing of the business.
“The last few years have been very tough for retailers generally and Ferry’s has not been immune to the challenges of keeping its doors open. “We could not have continued to operate had it not been for the dedication of Rosie’s ‘girls’ who have carried on providing our valued customers with the exceptional service Ferry’s customers have come to expect.”