Saad Milham Abikhair and his wife Shefia were part of a Lebanese family who made their home in Albury in 1895. In 1928, the couple opened “Abikhair’s Emporium” on the corner of Olive and Swift Streets.
Abikhair’s was a well known feature of the Albury shopping centre for 68 years and many Albury residents have fond memories of the store.
Margaret Baker’s Photographs
In 1990, local photographer Margaret Baker felt a great fascination and affection for this Albury institution that had changed so little since its earliest days. Marg was kindly given permission to take photos inside the shop. These works have a strange and exotic charm that has only increased with time.
An Albury Institution
Abikhair’s was widely known for personal service and the quality of its goods.
These included girdles, stockings, clothing, household supplies, beauty products, toiletries, manchester, shoes, hats, women’s garments, vacuum cleaners, hankies and pyjamas and much more. Merchandise was brought to Albury from Melbourne or imported from overseas.
There were heavy wooden counters and a cash register which operated in pounds, shillings and pence.
The walls were stacked with boxes.
Like other stores of its day, Abikhair’s had a flying fox system for moving cash from one part of the store to another. Purchases were wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.
As well as the main entrance, the shop had two others, one for men and one for women.
“As it was considered inappropriate for men to see, let alone purchase, women’s unmentionables, the entry for men took them through sporting goods and men’s supplies.” (Albury LibraryMuseum’s Social History Co-ordinator, Bridget Guthrie, in the Weekly Times, 2014)
Abikhair’s closed in 1996.
At that time, the Albury City Council purchased the unsold merchandise and the remaining advertising and office material for the Albury Regional Museum. In July 2014 the Albury LibraryMuseum held an exhibition of the Abikhair collection, titled Emporium. The advertisements can be viewed on their album on Flickr.
A book based on the collection, titled Emporium, by Jacqui Durrant, is available at the Library Museum. It’s fascinating and full of more gorgeous images.
References and further reading
Durrant, Jacqui (2014), Emporium: Inside Albury’s Most Famous Department Store. Albury, NSW. Albury LibraryMuseum.