From the 1920s onwards a revolutionary new way of shopping was introduced – the “self service”. Traditionally orders would be placed by you at the grocer’s counter and employees would weigh and pack for you, as you pointed to the shelves behind them to indicate what you wanted from the available stock. It was also fairly traditional to bring your own containers to refill. Throw-away packaging simply didn’t exist in the way it did later on.
It was a radical idea that took quick hold and grew phenomenally, in tandem with social and economic factors such as the end of rationing, a post-war yearning for freedom and leisure, and subsequently a market flooded with new product to fulfil demands for convenience. In the mid to late 1920s there were few chains – such as 4 Square, AG Stores, and Self-Help. It’s possible, and certainly true in the instance of Self-Help at this time, that you selected your own goods- but still took them to the counter to be packaged, in somewhat of a transitional compromise of tradition.
Fuller-Lipton’s Ltd. was situated at 101 Cuba Street, Wellington – half-way along the eastern side of Cuba Mall. By 1934 the company appears in publications heavily promoting their wares. If you look around in newspaper archives you can find plentiful adverts for their various products, which are pretty over the top; often with comical cartoons illustrating the butter, smallgoods, candy and other products.
It wasn’t long before the name has switched from Fuller-Lipton’s to Fuller-Fulton’s; I am not sure what the desire behind the name change was, but I know how it came about – it was a public competition to rename the store in 1935. It was likely a publicity gimmick to promote the business, much in the way that MGM held a competition to name a new starlet ( the winning moniker was Joan Crawford).
It also seems like Fuller-Fulton’s may have got themselves in a spot of bother over it:
Nevertheless, the name became synonymous with exotic treats – It was one of the largest delicatessens in Wellington and had a reputation amongst European migrants as being the place to go to buy all sorts of interesting foodstuffs at a time when the selection was fairly conservative and bland.
“The thing I particularly remember was the distinctive smell of all the cured hams and salamis and such-like, wafting through the door”, remembers one Wellington regular.
Says Eric Kearney: “I was transferred there in the late 1940’s and remained until 1960. It was a most interesting grocery. The influx of European immigrants searching for foods they were familiar with, together with a wonderful manager, Norm Saunders, meant the importation of many of these foods. The enterprising immigrants who made bread, cheese, and wurst etc., meant that here was an outlet (for their home-made product).” Says another who worked through the late 1970s and early 1980s: “I learned so much about other countries without leaving cuba street; it was a wonderful community ”
It certainly doesn’t make a big deal of a fanciful gourmet aspect in the ads, heavy on the butter, eggs bacon and chocolate, really quite standard fare (or seems very much so to us now) – so it’s interesting to get an insider’s perspective.
He also states that Self-Help (then Co-op, now Sutherland Trust) acquired Fuller-Fulton’s. I am sure there was a small chain of stores by the late 1930s, certainly more than one as far as I recall from ads I’ve seen. Self-Help most likely acquired it by the end of the 1940s – they had at least 200 stores by the end of WWII themselves, so a company to be reckoned with. Yet I haven’t actually seen any evidence to back up this claim thus far; and there’s no mention of it that I’ve seen in the company history of the Self-Help organisation.
Eric Kearney later mentioned to me that Self-Help purchased the store when it was Fuller Lipton’s and held the competition for the name change, so 1935. He says: “Self-Help owned many stores under other names. such as Poplar Stores just up the road from us, but Fuller-Fulton’s had a reputation par excellence”. As Self-Help were acquired by Woolworths in 1971 and phased out pretty quickly as far as I know, Self-Help obviously jettisoned Fuller-Fulton’s or part thereof at some point as Fuller-Fulton’s survived, or at least the main store did – surprisingly late in the game – with one person remembering working there as late as 1986. He says: “After the sale by National Distributors and the Self-Help Trust, the premises became a shoe store”. So it still doesn’t supply an answer. Anyway, I wonder what happened after that, between that late sixties and the late eighties? There’s a few unanswered questions, no photos as yet, and no doubt some more to this story. so until then, I’ll leave you with this retrospectively completely inappropriate poultry ad from 1934!