Manchester Robertson Allison (firm)

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Manchester Robertson Allison (firm)

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Dates of existence

1866-1973

History

Manchester Robertson Allison was a dry goods and general merchandise store founded in 1866 by James Manchester, James F. Robertson, and Joseph Allison in Saint John, New Brunswick. James Manchester came to Saint John from Yorkshire in 1855. He worked as a clerk in three different dry goods merchants' firms; the London House (T.W. Daniel & Co.), the Boston House, and finally Magee Brothers before leaving in 1866 to start his own business. James F. Robertson (d.1921) was born in Saint John and also worked at the London House and Magee Brothers before joining the partnership with Robertson and Allison. Joseph Allison was born in Nova Scotia and came to Saint John in 1851. He clerked at the Golden Fleece with Gilchrist and Inches, dry goods merchants, until 1855 then joined the London House and later went to Magee Brothers until 1866.

The three partners opened their business 3 April 1866 in small premises on Prince William Street. The staff consisted of the three owners, a clerk and two boys. A year later, the firm had grown and they moved into larger premises at Market Square in the centre of the Saint John business district. By 1873, Manchester Robertson Allison had grown yet further and added premises in King Street. Manchester Robertson Allison, known locally as MRA's, sold general dry goods at 27-29 King Street, carpet and house furnishings at 31-43 King Street; and furniture at 13-17 Market Square. MRA's also carried clothing and millinery.

In 1916, MRA's purchased buildings on upper Prince William Street for warehouse facilities. Alterations and improvements were completed in May 1928 and a new fashion department, the French Room, was added. In 1928 the firm ceased its wholesale department and also changed from a private company to a corporation. The Tea Room was added in 1929.

In 1973, Manchester Robertson Allison closed after 107 years in business. It had become one of the leading Maritime department stores with representatives located in Halifax, N.S., Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Sydney, N.S. Closure of MRA's preceded the demolition of that entire block of King, Germain, and Prince William Streets to make way for Brunswick Square, an office, hotel and retail complex. Manchester Robertson Allison had no pension plan for its 200 full-time and 300 part-time staff but provision was made for financial assistance, particularly the long term staff.

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