16 Jan 2016

Wellington icon closes after 150 years

9:41 pm on 16 January 2016

From a tiny store built with the timbers of a wrecked ship to a three-storey high-end Wellington landmark, Kirkcaldie & Stains shut its doors for the last time today after more than 150 years in business.

Kirkaldie & Stains in 2010

Kirkaldie & Stains in 2010 Photo: SUPPLIED

It's an end of an era for their loyal customers and almost nothing remains after weeks of big sales - even the fixtures and mannequins have mostly sold.

Shareholders of the store on Lambton Quay voted in July last year to sell the brand and pass on the store lease to Australian company David Jones.

The decision to wind up the company comes after falling sales and several years of losses.

A farewell message from management and staff at Kirkcaldie & Stains has been posted online.

It says it's "the end of an era in so many ways for so many people... our customers from Wellington, from around New Zealand and around the world.

"We thank you sincerely for your part in the life & times of our iconic store."

Kirkcaldies has maintained many of its traditions, including a reintroduction of a doorman in 1998 and having large Christmas window displays every year.

Kirkcaldie & Stains doorman Neville Wellbourn

Doorman Neville Wellbourn Photo: RNZ / Sonia Sly

The store was established in 1863 by Scotsman John Kirkcaldie and Englishman Robert Stains.

Their first store was built from the timbers of a wrecked ship in Waterloo House on Lambton Quay, now occupied by the historic Bank of New Zealand building.

The business outgrew the building and was moved to its present location on the corner of Lambton and Brandon Street.

A branch of the company was operated from the corner of Ghuznee and Cuba Street from 1871 until 1876, and it also had a branch in Napier from 1897 until 1917.

In 1908, the building was surrounded by the facade, which is still the hallmark of the company today.

Kirkaldie & Stains in 1909, it was in 1908 that the store was surrounded by its distinctive facade which remains today.

Kirkaldie & Stains in 1909, it was in 1908 that the store was surrounded by its distinctive facade which remains today. Photo: SUPPLIED

Kirkcaldies became a public company in 1995 and has about 1600 shareholders today - the vast majority of whom are Wellingtonians.

Investor Glenys Arthur said the writing had been on the wall for some time and the decision to sell was the right one.

"I really have been looking forward to this, it's the only thing you can do," she said.

And as the doors of Kirkcaldie & Stains shut, a set of David Jones doors will open - but customers will have to wait at least six months until that happens.