Then & Now: George Panes’ New Store, First Avenue

By Mark Levin Time of article published Dec 18, 2019

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Durban - In the 1890s, the colony of Natal attracted young Englishmen seeking opportunities, writes Mark Levin. Some opened small retail businesses in the centre of Durban, along Berea Road or on one of the newer roads like First Avenue.

One such immigrant was George Panes, who opened “The New Store” on the corner of First Avenue and Fynn Street in the late 1890s.

He had learnt his trade at the family’s grocer business of Shirley and Panes in West Kensington, London.

He chose First Avenue because it was not a heavily traded area, but sandwiched between town, the Berea and Greyville it was nevertheless a growing community.

Apart from the usual wares of a grocer, Panes also stocked wines and spirits. A small showroom enabled him to display delicacies imported from Britain. These types of good were “inclined to add zest to that special meal”. In 1901, Mr Purnell from West Somersetshire joined Panes as a partner, bringing with him his agencies in cuffs, collars and shirts.

The first photo, from 1902, shows Panes and Purnell outside their store with their employees.

The rickshaw was a popular mode of transport at the time. The New Store also offered daily deliveries to its customers. 

The modern photo shows the site today, which is part of the undeveloped Block AK, a sad reminder of the forced removals in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The Independent on Saturday appeals to readers who have old pictures of Durban and other parts of the province to send them to us for consideration. If any readers are featured in the old picture, we will do our best to recreate the scene with them in it again. Readers sending pictures digitally – images should be about 1MB – can address them, with the relevant information, to [email protected] 

If the pictures are in hard copy format, they can be posted to The Editor, Old Pictures, The Independent on Saturday, PO Box 47549, Greyville, 4023.

The Independent on Saturday

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