Pigotts was one of Toowoomba's largest retailers and a household word in a bygone era. Today, the Art Deco style of the Ruthven Street store still remains.
M.D. Pigott set up a drapery business in Brisbane soon after arriving in Australia in 1885. He opened his first store in Russell Street, Toowoomba (next to the Criterion Hotel) on the 6th July 1896. Pigott & Co. advertised that at their opening there would be the 'most marvellous bargains ever offered in Toowoomba.'
Just a year after opening Pigott and Co moved into specially remodelled premises in Ruthven Street on the 24th August 1897.
M.D. Pigott, his wife Mary Josephine and eight children moved from Brisbane to Toowoomba following the success of the store.
During the later years of the 1890s and into the early years of the twentieth century, branch stores were opened at Boonah, Beaudesert, Chinchilla, Pittsworth, Dalby and Warwick.
In 1908 the store was completely remodelled including vestibule windows. Tragedy struck Pigott & Co when fire broke out on the 8th July 1909 only a month after the renovations were complete. The building and stock were completely destroyed. To continue the running of the popular store a temporary building and offices were arranged the very next day. Warehouses rallied to supply goods and after a couple of weeks, business had increased and the temporary premises had to be extended.
On April 18th 1910, the new Pigott & Co. store opened with twice the floor space, enlarged departments and new departments added.
Extending the business to provide for country customers, the company promised careful and speedy orders received through the post. Postage charges were paid by the company on all drapery parcels to any railway station in the colony. Pigott's became one of the largest mail order department stores in 1920.
Pigott and Company was declared a limited company in 1910 with Mr M.D. Pigott as the managing director. Known simply as M.D. to the staff and family, the founder of the store was held in high regard by his staff and customers alike. Staff of the Pigott's store were treated to staff balls, picnics and social cricket matches. Other advantages of working for Pigott's included a subsidised insurance scheme and eventually a full superannuation scheme. Many staff members remained with Pigott's for a lifetime of service.
M.D. Pigott also treated customers generously. At Christmas time in 1898, The Chronicle advertised that all toys unsold at Pigott's by 6pm on Christmas Eve would be given to needy families that visited the store.
After returning from service with the Army Medical Corps, M.D. Pigott's son, Francis Joseph Pigott became managing director of the department store. F.J. was the only one of M.D. Pigott's four sons to show interest in the family business.
M.D. Pigott died on the 11th May 1929. F.J. Pigott continued to run his father's department store guiding through great expansion and prosperity during the 1930s and 1950s. Eventually Pigott's become Toowoomba's largest retail store. F.J. Pigott died on the 16th June 1957, after ill health.
In 1962 (the same year that Myers came to Toowoomba), Pigott's extended their building into Margaret Street. This was the same time that cash registers and escalators were installed in the building. Towards the end of the same year, Pigott's opened a food hall to compete with Myer's cafeteria.
Pigott's operated in Toowoomba for eighty-seven years eventually being bought by McDonnell and East on the 28th July 1983.
Hinchliffe, Bruce. (ed) (1984) They Meant Business.
Pigott, Dr L J. (2003) Pigott & Co PTY LTD: a short history of the Pigott Store and four generations of the Pigott Family.
Pigott Archives (ARC 38)