Melrose Street Shops

MELROSE STREET SHOPS       (Julie Stanley)

Herald Sun Thursday January 11, 1996

Sensation by the Sea (Hobson’s)

The moment you are greeted by Brian Perkin you may recognise him from his days at Café Populare in North Melbourne and later Centro Café in South Melbourne.  He knows what he’s doing because, down in suburban Sandringham on the beach, he has created something special.  The atmosphere of Café Hobson just oozes Mediterranean seaside colour.  The walls are sandy cream while the high Wunderlich ceiling and fixtures are azure blue.  Starfish, seashells and other marine objects are painted on every static surface, including the central wood-fired pizza oven which dominates the dining room. …….  The acoustics enhanced by the high ceiling, make for a noisy boisterous atmosphere, but this is not out of character with the casual, fun ambience of the place.

Café Hobson, 19-21 Melrose Street, Sandringham

Owners:  Brian and Judy Perkin

Herald Sun Tuesday April 1, 1997

Hobson’s Happy Choice.

Mr Hobson would surely be pleased.  The double-storey Victorian terrace house this early Sandringham resident built in 1911 for a drapery business now boasts a restaurant named after him:  Café Hobson.  Part owner Brian Perkin recalls happy childhood days spent with his grandparents who lived just behind.  He has certainly injected a cheery, carefree atmosphere here.  ….The original pressed-metal ceilings and wooden floorboards have been beautifully restored.  Sea shells, crabs and star fish sculpted on benches and walls done in a combination of sandy tones and aquamarine brings the beach inside.  ……  Delicious pizzas emerge constantly from a central wood-fired oven of Red Bluff cliff-coloured bricks. 






Sandringham – Commercially – In the 20s and 30s.             by Jack Cartwright 1991




Sandringham was the terminus of the rail network from Melbourne ….  influx of visitors during the summer months.  The beach front was just a short walk along Melrose Street.

With the assistance of a Sand’s and McDougall’s directory of 1928, we are able to follow the types of businesses and the names of their proprietors, in each of the streets.  Unfortunately, there are no directories available between 1928 and 1944, but having selected the former year as a basis, one can assume that some of the shops would still be there during the years between. 

Although Sandringham was in early days, part of Moorabbin, it became separated in 1917, and from becoming a borough, was made a town in 1919.  Then in 1923, Sandringham was finally made a city.

Melrose Street led directly from the railway station to the beach and so contained a variety of shops ranging from cafes to drapers, to confectioners, to estate agents, to chemists, to delicatessens (called ham and beef shops).

There was some controversy about the continuation of the naming of Melrose Street from the corner near the estate agency to its junction with Waltham Street and after lengthy discussion, it became Station Square and finally, Station Street.

Hobson’s Drapery Stores, after the demise of Mr Walter Hobson, came under the proprietorship of F M Straw’s Drapery Stores.  During the 1930s the firm moved to premises in Station Street where they conducted business until their closure in 1981.

Melrose Street, Sandringham.  Policy on Façade Conservation.  City of Sandringham.


The north side of Melrose Street has been identified by officers of the Heritage Unit of the Department for Planning and Environment as worthy of consideration for conservation controls and it is consistent with Council’s recent successful discussions with the Westpac bank for preservation of the façade of their Melrose Street property.

The main objective of the Council in relation to the above buildings would be the conservation of their facades and their overall form, scale and materials. 

Melrose Street by Graeme Disney of Sandringham and District Historical Society in The Sandy Review, Vol. 1 No. 10, September 1993.


The oldest shop in Melrose Street is number 15, a lovely building with Art Nouveau leadlights, a gable, and balconettes with fretted balustrading, which was built in 1903 and is still in largely original condition.  The shop was built for the Sandringham newsagent, Mr. Thomas Kevan, who sold the business and leased the property to Mr. Ernest Soffa in 1907.  During the 1920s and 30s the shop was occupied by Mr. Arthur Coutie, who eventually relocated the newsagency to its present site, to be nearer the railway station and train line.

The Hobson Stores at 21-23 Melrose Street were built in 1911 and still have their original façade above the verandah, proudly bearing their name in Art Nouveau lettering.  This was the earliest softgoods store in the street and was built for Mr. Walter Hobson who sold it to the Straw family in 1922.  Many Sandringham residents remember with great affection Straws Drapery Stores which served the district well for almost 70 years.

In 1913, Mr Fred Straw purchased a stationery shop and lending library in Station Square (then Melrose Street) and added drapery lines as the business expanded.  In 1921 he opened a second shop in Hampton Street, near the railway station, while a short time later his son Eric purchased the Hobson Stores and the Sandringham branch was concentrated there.  In 1927 Straws purchased two shops and a dwelling in Melrose Street, opposite the station, and a new large store was built on this site in 1935.  The name “Straws” became a household word and the family traded profitably until 1982 when it closed the doors for the last time in May of that year.

The Wine Saloon.  The property at 33-35 Melrose Street is listed as far back as 1899 as a “Wine Saloon” and over the years is shown as a “Wine and Refreshment Café”.  The original licencee was Mr. W. Corkhill and in 1901 this was transferred to Mr. John Weeks, who expanded the business so that by 1913 he also operated a café and confectionery shop in Melrose Street.  the last licencee of the saloon was Mr. J. Cray Taggart and, after his departure in the 1950s the building was demolished and replaced by a suite of offices and a pharmacy.   Mr. Jack Cartwright recalls that during the 1940s his father, Mr. Alfred Cartwright, sat on the bench at Sandringham Court as a Justice of the Peace, and sometimes had to deal with customers of the saloon who had been charged with being “Drunk and Disorderly” and on occasion had to declare the premises “out of bounds” to frequent offenders.

Melrose Street – Main Street Project 1992 – Charles Sturt University/Sandringham and District Historical Society.


Card No. 24.  1 Melrose Street

The first two shops built in Melrose Street in 1893 were both Confectioners, but in 1897 other shops were built.  During those first four years, the two confectionery shops would have catered for the local residents, the people who arrived by the steam train at nearby Sandringham Railway Station for the guests at the large, new Coffee Palace on the corner of Beach Road and Melrose Street which was opened in 1889.

Card No. 20.  Locality Plan – Melrose Street and its Environs.  (plan available to copy)


This locality plan names all the businesses in Melrose Street and its environs in 1986 when the Westpac Banking Corporation’s premises were sold and demolished.  The Plan is important in clarifying the changes which have taken place in Melrose Street.  Last century when Melrose Street was laid out, it ran from Beach Road towards the Sandringham Railway Station and turned  North and ended at the corner of Waltham Street.   On this corner in the early 1900s stood The Red Store.

In the 1950s the numbers on the north side of Melrose Street were Nos. 1 to 51 (No. 51 being on the corner of Waltham Street.)  In the 1960s, Nos. 41-51 Melrose Street facing the Railway Station were re-numbered Nos. 50-60 Station Street.

Card No. 24.  Melrose Street – The First Confectionery Shop.  (photo available on Card No. 25)

The first two shops built in Melrose Street in 1893 were both Confectioners, but in 1897 other shops were built.  During those first four years, the two confectionery shops would have catered for the local residents, the people who arrived by the steam train at the nearby Sandringham Railway Station and for the guests at the large, new Coffee Palace on the corner of Beach Road and Melrose Street which was opened in 1889.  In 1899, Mrs Elsie Barrington managed the Tea Rooms on the north side of Melrose Street opposite the Coffee Palace and a section of these Rooms would have had a Confectionery Shop.  It is surprising the number of women who were in business at the turn of the century.  For example, the next proprietor of the Tea Rooms in 1900 was a woman, Mrs Amelia Bristow.  Mrs L. Kelly was the licensee of the Retreat Hotel, Hampton, from 1894-1898; Mrs Pile was the manager of the Sandringham Coffee Palace 1891-1892; and the Red Bluff Hotel had a woman licensee from 1895-1918.  Women in Sandringham also owned or managed a variety of businesses including a milliners, fancy goods, drapers and dressmakers and one was a proprietor of a boot shop.  The Tea Rooms would have served light meals.  A sign outside the shop would have displayed the words “Boiling Water” and for a small charge, customers could have their teapots, or sometimes a billy, filled with boiling water.  People on picnics were still buying boiling water until the 1930s when the introduction of cheap thermos flasks meant they no longer relied on buying boiling water to make their pots of tea.  In the 1970s this shop was closed and a number of other shops alongside.  They were demolished to make way for the widening of the street and the erection of more modern buildings.  The new buildings are not exactly on the same site as the old shops as provision was made by Sandringham Council for car parking outside the new shops and offices.


Card No. 28.  Nos. 21-23 Melrose Street – the first softgoods shop. (Photo on Card 29)

The earliest softgoods store in Melrose Street was built for Mr. Walter O. Hobson in 1911.  Today the building remains intact and the words “The Hobson Stores” are still emblazoned across the front of the building.  Here the customer could have a large choice of dress materials, Manchester, haberdashery, and linen goods.  Local businesses catered well for Sandringham residents and ladies visited local milliners for their new hats and often had their dresses made by local dressmakers.  Men bought their shirts and shoes from local shops and often had their suits made by a local tailor.  Visits to the city were infrequent in the first quarter of the century unless you were the breadwinner travelling daily to work in Melbourne.  Hobson’s was a pleasant place to shop and even a spot where one could pass the time of day.  Many of the shops had residences either above the shop or behind the actual selling area.  Possibly this gave some flexibility to shopping hours although an Act of Parliament in 1915, introduced some regulations.  However, local shopkeepers extended their closing time to oblige a customer.

Card No. 30.  21-23 Melrose Street and 58 Station Street :  Straw’s Drapery Stores

Today many of Sandringham’s residents remember with affection Straw’s Drapery Store which for almost 70 years was a part of life for them, their parents and often their grandparents.  Thomas Straw and his young wife Emily migrated from England to Melbourne in the 1850s and opened their first shop a few years later in Sydney Road, Brunswick.  In 1913 their son, Fred, purchased a small stationery shop with a lending library in Station Square (Melrose Street) in the popular beach holiday resort of Sandringham and the family bought a house in Bay Road (in 1992 No. 126).

Business progressed; drapery lines were added to their stock; and in 1921, a shop was opened in nearby Hampton.  In 1922, Fred’s son, Eric, purchased The Hobson Stores at Melrose Street and for a while three shops operated in Sandringham but eventually the business was confined to The Hobson Stores building.  Straw’s was always a family business; fathers and sons; and later cousins joined the partnership.  In 1926, shops were opened in Cheltenham and Balwyn and in 1929, a shop was opened in Middle Brighton; five shops in all.

In 1927 the company purchased two small shops and a dwelling in Melrose Street opposite the Station and a new store was built on this site in 1935.  The 1950s and mid 1960s was a strong growth period for Straw’s but changes in the retail trade, the success of regional shopping centres and increased running costs forced many suburban old-style general drapery stores to close.  After operating in Sandringham since 1913, Straw’s closed its doors for the last time in May 1982.

Card No. 31.  No. 33-35 Melrose Street – The Wine Saloon.

As far back as 1899 this property was found under various descriptions Wine Saloon, Wine Café and Tobacconist and Wine and Refreshment Café.  The first licensee in 1899 was Mr. W>J> Corkhill but in 1901 John Weeks became the new licensee and he, his wife and family were to live there until after World War 1.  In 1913, Mr. Weeks’ businesses in Melrose Street included The Wine Café, The Sandringham Café and a Confectioners.  The Wine Saloon drew a certain type of customer, many of whom were heavy drinkers.  Mr Alfred Cartwright, a Justice of the Peace in the 1940s, often had to deal with those men and women who had over-indulged at Weeks’ Wine Saloon. 

Card No. 33.  No. 37 Melrose Street – The First Bank:  The Commercial Bank of Australia

In 1918, the Bank moved from its premises next door to The Red Store on the corner of Melrose and Waltham Streets to new premises – a single storey weatherboard shop on the site of 37 Melrose Street.  In 1935, a two storey brick building with a residence for the Manager was built.   The Commercial Bank’s banking chamber in the 1930s was similar to most suburban banks operating in those days.  The counters and bank tellers’ cages were of oak and the floor was covered in plain brown, inlaid linoleum.  The staff at that time consisted of a manager, accountant and a teller, a ledger keeper and a junior, all male.  Monthly statements were written by hand and handed out to the customers at the beginning of each month.  If the customer wanted a statement immediately, there was no delay.  A carbon copy would be given across the counter.  Business people were grateful that Banks opened on Saturday mornings and that change could be obtained and the cash takings from Friday night’s and Saturday morning’s trading could be deposited.  In 1982, The Commercial Bank of Australia merged with the Bank of New South Wales to become Westpac Banking corporation. 

Card No. 42.  No. 51 Melrose Street – Family Style Grocery – The Red Store (Now 56 Station Street)

In 1904, this property was a grocer’s shop – “W.P. Francis”.  It had the distinction of being painted red.  In those days, most shops had verandahs with supporting posts, and the Red Store like the other shops, had the usual iron ring in its posts so that horses could be tied up.  The Red Store has become immortalised in John Hetherington’s book “The Morning Was Shining”.  John Hetherington’s parents lived in Sandringham and John was only a toddler in 1911 when his father used to take him to the Red Store on Sunday mornings when the store was closed.  John used to roam around the shop whilst his father worked on the shop’s accounts.  In those days, a lot of goods sold in a grocer’s shop, such as sugar, butter, biscuits, honey and cheese would be kept in bulk. 

The floor of The Red Store would have been covered in sawdust.  On entering the store, each customer would be greeted by name and a chair would be placed by the counter for the customer to sit at.  The customer’s order would be written down in a docket book, often after a discussion and personal advice about the goods from the grocer.  The order would be added up by the Sales Assistant and paid for by the customer or charged to his or her account.  The goods could be delivered later that day.  In the early 1920s, Mr. Hetherington became the owner of the Red Store and managed it until his death in 1928. 

The Red Store was closed in the mid 1940s and the shop was altered.  It was taken over by Mr Harold Hartley of Hartley’s Teleray Company, a radio and later television sales and repair shop.  When television sets were first sold in the late 1950s, a set would be placed in Mr. Hartley’s shop window overnight and turned on to a programme.  People who wanted to view television (black and white in those days) would stand outside the shop window and watch the programme.

Card No. 44.  Fire Hydrant

On the south side of Melrose Street outside No. 22 there is a fire hydrant on the pavement.  (see Card No. 46)  This position is near the site of Sandringham’s first Fire Station built in 1900.  In 1904, the Fire Station was m oved to Bay Road near Fernhill Road.

John Hetherington in his book “The Morning was Shining” wrote about the Sandringham Fire Station during World War 1 when John was a small boy.  Little had changed…

“Fires more often than not occurred in areas of scrubland, which were still plentiful then beyond the narrow limits of the town itself, and the alarm was raised by tolling a bell in the tower above the fire station.  The local fire brigade was a volunteer force; its members drilled regularly, marched in patriotic processions, wore glittering brass helmets when on duty and were accounted heroes by all local small boys.  For as far back as I can recall until the voluntary brigade was disbanded, and replaced by a squad of paid firemen, always two of my father’s shop assistants, sometimes three, and at one time all four, were ardent members.  The summons of the bell was the signal for these men to stop on the instant whatever they happened to be doing in the Red Store, vault the counter and sprint for the fire station whence the horse-drawn firecart would go hurtling off at breakneck speed to the scene of the blaze, pursued by a flock of whooping urchins and barking dogs in a frenzy of excitement.  As a public spirited townsman, Dad never made any protest about his staff’s part in these proceedings but at times was known to look dismayed when, at the fire bell’s call, his assistants went racing out through the doorway, leaving him with perhaps one helper or even no helper at all to minister to the grocery wants of a dozen or more fidgeting customers.”