Uki: Little village with a big store
TALKING HISTORY with the Tweed Regional Museum and Uki and South Arm Historical Society
UKI really was the little village with the big store, when in the 1920s the Uki Store had the biggest floor space of any store between Newcastle and Brisbane.
The original Uki General Store was much more modest.
It was built in 1909 for FJ Ryder by builders Cedric B Popkin and AJ Clark (as an aside, Popkin was credited with shooting down the Red Baron in WWI, but that's another story).
In early 1914, the store was sold to AS Loder who had been a local bullock driver.
Only a few months later, disaster struck when a fire destroyed the General Store along with much of the main street.
When Mr Loder re-built the store it was on a much larger scale; two storeys with the shop below and a residence on top.
He re-opened for business on May 24, 1915, selling everything the community could need, including furniture, drapery, groceries, clothing, footwear, produce and hardware.
Increased business soon forced him to add to the store, and in the early 1920s, he added what was known as the showroom, an area as large as the main store.
One early highlight of the store was in 1926 when Loder's entered a window dressing competition to promote Australian-made goods.
By employing a Brisbane window-dresser, they were able to almost scoop the pool, winning a cup, shield, ribbon and two other trophies.
Newspapers reported the wins and the fact Murwillumbah residents flocked to view the window displays.
In 1935, the dividing wall between the showroom and the main store was removed and the store modernised with an overhead cash carrier system, operated by a 'change girl', with change cups on wires connected to departmental counters by overhead miniature 'flying foxes'. When shop assistant Lionel Mitchell was courting Ella Womersley, who worked in the store office, he would send up lollies to her via the overhead wire system (it must have worked as they were happily married for 62 years).
Most business was done by a monthly account system with local farmers, with the store helping dairy farmers having financial difficulties by carrying them over until they received their cream cheque. One such farmer whose account was long overdue received a note from Mr Loder with his account saying "I would like a cheque with this.” The reply came back from the farmer saying "so would I”.
In the 1930s, the Loder family embarked on a world tour and brought back crockery from Czechoslovakia featuring images of Uki and stamped Loder's store Uki and also marked cutlery from Sheffield, England with examples of both are held in the Museum's Collection.
In 1939, 25 years of successful trading was celebrated with giveaways and competitions. Leading up to the Christmas period lucky dips were wrapped by staff and sold from casks on the floor. Lots of amusement was had by staff watching the antics of customers buying and trying to pick which parcel had a wrist watch or dinner set in it. These dips were priced at sixpence, 1 shilling and 2 shillings and they drew customers from far and wide
In 1945, Loder's was sold to Reg Dalton.
Since then there have been various owners, but the store has remained an important part of the community. The original timber building was replaced by a brick structure in 1978, beginning another page in the history of the General Store.