Boans is the name of a department store that operated in Perth, Western Australia between 1895 and 1986. The store was founded by Harry Boan and his brother Benjamin who both came to Perth in 1895 from Broken Hill in western New South Wales. Harry and another brother, Ernest, had previously established a successful drapery known as "Boan Bros. Ltd." in that town.
The brothers arrived in Perth in mid-1895 when Harry was 34, and purchased two quarter-acre blocks facing Wellington Street and the Perth railway station, at the edge of a potato swamp. The properties ("V.7-8") were purchased from W.B. Woods & Co, at a price of £42 per foot of street frontage. They borrowed £62,000 and within four months, despite acute labour shortages, had built, stocked and opened a single-storey emporium on the site and named it "Boan Bros.". The store opened on 7 November 1895, and almost sold out by the end of the first day of trading. The original buildings were described as a single store that ran from Wellington Street through to Murray Street and appeared as "a line of iron shops".
In 1901, Benjamin died and Harry assumed sole ownership. Harry purchased adjoining land that spanned the block between Wellington and Murray Streets, near Forrest Place. The business was restructured to become a limited company in 1912 and the name was changed to Boans Ltd. In the same year, the original buildings were demolished and rebuilt as a single building between Murray and Wellington Streets.
Over time, the store became the largest private employer in Western Australia.
In late 1929 Harry Boan handed control of the Boans store to his son Frank Boan who had been living in England with his mother since 1913.
Like similar businesses, Boans had a mail order catalogue issued from the late 1930s that continued into the 1950s.
The Boans department store in Wellington Street Perth was subject to a major fire in 1979, which closed the store for some weeks. The store reopened, prior to its closure in 1986 when it was sold to Coles Myer Ltd to make way for the new Forrest Chase Myer complex. This was later considered a bizarre coincidence, as the Boans department store in Morley was destroyed by fire in 1986. The Morley complex was later rebuilt, housing a Myer department store.
In about 1910 Boans opened a furniture factory in East Perth to service the shop. It produced bedroom furniture, including mattresses, dining and kitchen furniture. There was also a cane-ware and upholstery section. Imported furniture was also held there.
After World War II, the factory would also house a bakery and butchery, where smallgoods were manufactured. Between 30 and 40 vehicles operated out of the receivals and despatch section, which also included garaging and mechanical services.
After the Perth store closed, the building fell into disrepair for some years, but in 1996 was assessed by the Heritage Council of Western Australia as having historic, aesthetic and social value. As part of the redevelopment of the area by the East Perth Redevelopment Authority, the buildings have now been transformed into upmarket housing and office accommodation.
The site is bounded by Brown, Glyde and Saunders Streets and the building retains the name of Boans painted on its exterior.
During the latter part of the twentieth century, the company expanded by opening a number of suburban stores, as part of the growing trend of decentralised "shopping centres" out of the city centre.
These included:Waverley -- Cannington. The first suburban branch.
Morley. Opened 1961, destroyed by a fire in 1986. (The site has since been redeveloped as Centro Galleria.)
Garden City -- Booragoon
Peppermint Grove This store site was later acquired by Harris Scarfe (in 1996) and was the foundation Harris Scarfe department store in Western Australia. The store continued trading as a Harris Scarfe store until 2001.
Melville Plaza, Canning Highway
Medina Shopping Centre, then Kwinana Hub
Karrinyup (A Myer store upon opening. Traded as Boans for two years 1986-1988. Relabelled Myer in 1988)
Fremantle (The Myer store was rebadged as Boans for two years between 1986-1988. Myer had bought out Boans and had intended on using the Boans rather than Myer name on its WA stores). Myer closed this store on 20 January 2013.
Boans operated department stores in regional areas. When Myer acquired Boans, these stores were sold.
The stores were located at:Albany
Myer Emporium (now Coles Group) purchased the business in 1985 and the Boans city store closed its doors for the last time on 12 April 1986 so that a redevelopment into a larger department store could take place. The development became known as Forrest Chase with Myer as the anchor retailer.
Ross's Sales & Auctions held an on-site sale that cleared the entire building, including many fixtures and fittings such as the jarrah staircases and a Beale baby grand piano "in-situ on the fourth floor". These items are now occasionally seen in refurbished and new buildings around Perth.
Myer said in 1986 that they would retain the Boans name and promptly rebadged the Myer city store at Murray and William Sts (to be used as the city base until Forrest Chase was ready) and any Myer suburban stores with the Boans name. However, Myer management changed their mind in 1988 when the Forrest Chase building was nearing completion so that they could centralise all advertising and eliminate cost duplication. The Boans name was phased out over several weeks.
In 1989, Myer opened on the former Boans site with a new and larger store carrying through to Forrest Place. The suburban stores were converted to "Myer" badging.
Myer sold the country stores in Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton to Geoffrey Bingemann, who was a director of Boans prior to the Myer acquisition of the Boans business.
Bingemann rebadged these stores as Stirlings department stores, and he operated this business as a regional chain until 1996, when Harris Scarfe acquired the business and they became Harris Scarfe stores. Harris Scarfe continued trading until 2001.