Shoe shop shutters after 94 years

February 24, 2024 BY


PALL MALL institution Colliers Shoes is closing after close to a century of service to the town.

Owner, Kristian Wenckowski, bought the business 24 years ago from a member of the Collier family, who founded the store in 1930.

“It’s probably one of the original retailers in this precinct and probably one of the oldest retailers in Bendigo,” Mr Wenckowski said.

As a bricks and mortar store, Mr Wenckowski said the business had a strong connection to the community and for decades had been the go-to place for parents to buy their child’s first pair of shoes.

“People trust you and I can’t tell you how many generations we’ve had come through here,” he said.

“You form a bond, a trust, people probably had a bit more time on their hands than they do now, but you were part of the community.

“Sadly, retail is really drifting away from that because, even in towns like Bendigo, you’ll see the same retailers you see in most big places, so your little guys here are few and far between.”

The closure of the store marks the end of an era on Pall Mall and according to Mr Wenckowski was brought about by a combination of developments in e-commerce and changes to local retail habits.

“If we were realists, we probably would have pulled up stumps in COVID time because it was pretty tight even in that period,” he said.

Mr Wenckowski said it had been hard to let go of the staff and they’d hung on to the business as long as possible.

“We feel tied to our crew, but there’s a time where you just have to say ‘well, we can only bleed for so long’, so here we are,” he said.

“It’s sad but we’re just part of history.”

With the shopfront about to sit vacant, Mr Wenckowski said he would like to see more involvement from the municipality to preserve Bendigo’s retail environment.

“Whilst I don’t blame them for the rate increases and things like that, I think they need to think about the future of this precinct,” he said.

The closure is one in a string of prominent local businesses folding, with the Good Loaf Sourdough Bakery closing their Bendigo location at the end of 2023 after 15 years.