The rich history of Port Pirie’s most iconic retailer | HISTORIC PHOTOS

FROM humble beginnings, Prests developed into Port Pirie’s most iconic retailer. 

Henry Prest, the founder of the store, originally lived in Yorkshire, which is where the “Prest” name has its origins.

He was afflicted with the lung disease, tuberculosis, which was rife in the area, and the doctor suggested he go to a dry climate.

So Henry came out to Adelaide, South Australia, and worked in ironmongery in Hindley Street.

He partnered with a man named Bosomworth and they discovered there were retail opportunities in Port Pirie.

They originally set up a store on the wharf, before buying a piece of land and setting up a two-storey building.

Henry lived in the top level and ran the store, which was then known as Prest Brothers, on the ground floor.

Soon he married Eleanor Clarke, from Noarlunga, and they had four children, the youngest of whom was Peter.

Peter married Ellie West and they had three sons including Mick who would later become managing-director of the family business.

Peter was a farmer at Telowie and was chairman of the board of the company.

He monitored the family financial interest of the company every week.

In 1947, they launched the company on the Stock Exchange – it was the smallest firm listed on the stock exchange and was a true family entity and highly respected.

Peter came in from the farm to temporarily manage the store in Port Pirie after the previous manager Cecil Wrighton died of a heart attack. 

He became interested in the business and stayed, selling the farm.

Meanwhile, his son Mick left school, went into the business and started in the cellar, weighing spuds and bottling kerosene.

Because he had inherited his grandfather Henry’s business acumen, he was soon elevated to secretary at a very young age.

“On Peter’s death, Mick took over as managing-director of the business,” Joan Prest told The Recorder in an interview about her husband, Mick, and the iconic store in 2014. 

The flagship Prests building housed the very first supermarket-style grocery department in Port Pirie. It opened in 1960.  Prests was the first supermarket in Port Pirie, but the later arrival of retail chains spelled a grave message to the company.

“In later years, Mick was paying himself  ‘peanuts’  to keep the doors open to employ 50 to 60 staff,” Mrs Prest said.

Mick stepped down as manager of Prests Ltd in 1995. The retailer moved from its flagship store at the corner of Ellen and Norman Street to a smaller shop on Ellen Street in 2007.