This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
Any additional information, via Comments, is welcomed.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

In the beginning - G.J. Coles

As the Coles supermarket chain celebrates its 100 years of operation, it is fitting to mention the Wimmera's links to the foundation of the dynasty.

George Coles (1833-1866) and his brother James emigrated to Victoria in the gold-rush year of 1853. George married Jane Clipsham the following year in 1854. They had four sons - George (born in Daylesford), James, Frank and Fred all born in St Arnaud.
George lived in Daylesford, St Arnaud and Stuart Mill before moving to Jung and marrying Elizabeth Scouler. They had 10 children before Elizabeth died giving birth to Gracie the eleventh in 1900.
Sir George James Coles (1885-1977) of G.J. Coles of retail fame, was born on 28 March 1885 at Jung, the second of the children and eldest son. 
The Coles family had a store, blacksmith and hotel at Diapur, and later a store at Nhill.
In May 1888 Mr George Coles (Senior & father of G.J.) built a general store in Miram (Allotment 11 Section 5), and with the assistance of Mr Castles carried on the business until 1892. The building later became the Post Office, proprietors office, and No. 2 Bulk Store. Thomas & Adelaide Butcher succeeded Mr Coles, and he held a wine & spirits licence. When the Butchers left the district in 1899, the store closed, and concerts, dances, and school (rented by the Education Department) were all held in the building.
In April 1903 Mr Phillip Wheaton purchased the building from Cordner Brothers (who had purchased it earlier in the year) and commenced business, Mr W.A. Brown joined the staff in 1913. and was a partner from 1924/6 to 1937.
The current building was built on the old site by the Mills family in 1929, and opened on 18th September 1929.
Wheaton's Pioneer Store in Miram
Under the ownership of generations of Wheatons the store grew, becoming a cornucopia - extending beyond groceries to drapery, footwear,  millinery, glassware, menswear, timber, hardware, iron, motor oils, wireless receivers... It provided an electricity supply for the town, a permanent water supply, eggs from their poultry farm, a Freisian dairy herd for fresh milk, cream & butter, and a meat supply from their beef herd. Equipped as a Post Office the store had a postal service and van delivery of goods.

Meanwhile G.J., in partnership with his brothers Jim and Sir Arthur, he opened a store in Smith Street, Collingwood. in April 1914.
Sir George died on 4 December 1977 at his Toorak home and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at $986,486. The family business continued to expand, forming a partnership in 1968 with an American company in the establishment of K-Mart (Aust.) Ltd. With the takeover of the Myer operation in 1985, Coles Myer Ltd became the largest private employer in Australia.


  1. It is very interesting to know that my home town of Nhill had a part to play in the early establishment of G.J.Coles. It would be great to see a memorable plaque placed at the original site of the store that they had there.

  2. George built his Nhill shop on the earlier site of Englander's store in Victoria Street, it closed in 1974.