SHARE
(Left)Looking back... H&J Smith Gore was the picture of modern retailing in 1913. PHOTO: SUPPLIED (Right)Shrinking space... The top floor of the iconic H&J Smith Gore store may lie vacant soon if consolidation plans go ahead. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

H&J Smith has stood on the corner of Irk and Main Sts in Gore for more than 100 years – now, the two-storey operation could be consolidated to one floor and staff cuts are also on the cards.

H&J Smith chief executive John Green said a proposal to consolidate the business had been discussed with staff earlier this week.

The store employed 40 people in full-time and part-time roles.

“There’s a range of different roles,” Mr Green said.

“Hence our desire to think about what’s best for the store and what’s best for the town.”

He described the store as being an icon on the main street of the town.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Green said a meeting with some staff was also scheduled for this week.

“I am meeting some staff tomorrow [Thursday] to get feedback before any decisions [are made]”.

Mr Green said the historic store had been too large for a long time.

While H&J Smith used to own the building, the company sold it about 14 years ago.

The company was investigating how to bring the store up to a modern standard.

It opened in Gore 113 years ago.

The retail world was continuing to evolve and change, Mr Green said.

The upstairs of the store contained the Junction Cafe, furniture, homeware and linen.

Mr Green said it would be very challenging to move the cafe downstairs, as it was a very old building.

The company was keen to gauge staff input before making a decision.

Unfortunately, if the proposal was adopted, there would be staff reductions, he said.

“We’ve been very open and honest with people and given them a chance to contribute to the process.

“We’re very mindful people don’t like uncertainty.”

Hokonui Heritage Research Centre curator Stephanie Herring said H&J Smith opened its first Gore store on April 20, 1905 in the Criterion Hotel building.

“Business was brisk and in 1913 it took the step of building its own premises on the corner of Irk and Main Sts.

“Initially the upstairs portion housed the Women’s Club and a dental surgery, among other small businesses.”

Unique to the store were the Lamson tubes into which customers’ money was placed and “whooshed” away through a network of pipes, which moments later would return the change, she said.