Beecroft has only ever had a small local retail community servicing the immediate area. Cheltenham has only even had one or two commercial activities in total. Despite the size of the activity they provide a centre of community life and much local life intersects with retail activity.
Outside of the current retail zone in Beecroft, other retail activities have previously existed in the form of Higgins store (still surviving as a liquor store), two shops near the School of Arts and two further shops south along Beecroft Road.
Within the existing retail precinct the distribution of shops has been as follows:
In 1900, the layout of the shops comprised, along Wongala Crescent, a butcher halfway between the fire station and Hannah Street and then closer to that corner a grocer with an estate agent on the corner. In Hannah Street there was a haberdasher on the northern side along Wongala closer to Chapman Avenue there was a bakehouse and along Beecroft Road there was a shoe repair man near the corner with Chapman and closer to Hannah there was a chemist. During this time the retail area grew to comprise two green grocers, two garages to service the growing number of cars in the vicinity and a dentist.
The new shops that opened at this time were a grocer and butcher in what is now known as The Treasure House Building, a butcher and a barber in the Boronia Cottage/St George building; a grocer, milk bar and greengrocer adjacent to the real estate agent on the corner of Hannah Street. In Hannah street opposite the post office opened a ladies hairdresser, grocer and newsagent. The shoe repairer moved closer to the northern corner on Wongala and Hannah Street.
The purchasing power of the district at this times seems to have been dominated by a small number of wealthy residential owners and a large proportion of small farmers.
The number of weekly ticket sales from Beecroft Railway Station peaked between 1945 (13, 040) and 1950 (16, 421) and then did not have the same rate of growth until 1970 (36, 921). The indicates a significant number of people travelling to the station and presumably also using the retail area. Due to two world wars and the Great Depression retail growth was slow within this period. In this period the Bank of NSW opened on Beecroft Road just north of the corner with Hannah Street. South of the Post Office on Beecroft Road a grocer and further south a delicatessen opened. The butcher closest to the fire station closed and an engineering shop opened in its place. Between the green grocer and the estate agent on the corner of Wongala and Hannah a shoe store opened. The butcher in Boronia cottage closed an a library opened there. There was one garage on Beecroft Road and another on Wongala between the grocer and the bakehouse in the block between Hannah and Chapman. The purchasing power of the district in this period was dominated by a steady increase in the residential population but with a preponderance of older, rather than young family, households.
Despite the growth of larger shopping centres in Eastwood, Epping and Pennant Hills and the growth in the number of households owning a motor car, the continued delivery service of a number of retail outlets in Beecroft appears to have maintained profitability in this centre. The main growth in shops was along the northern side of Hannah Street with the opening of a chemist, the Commonwealth Bank, a hairdresser, grocer and electrical shop.
This era saw a considerable growth in the retail area. Along Beecroft Road a third garage for the district was opened (in 1964) when the Caltex Garage opened between the delicatessen and the Post Office. Significantly the Village Arcade was built (in 1961) in this period (with its own carpark) between the hairdresser and greengrocer along the northern side of Hannah Street.
In 1965 the arcade comprised the following shops (from Hannah Street) along the western side – delicatessen, drapery, ladies clothes, Health and bulk food, dentist, jeweller, milk bar, hardware, Worman’s supermarket, green grocer. Along the eastern side from Hannah Street were – dry cleaner, antiques, ladies hairdresser, pet shop, art supplies, orthodontist, chemist, men’s wear, butcher, cakes. The arcade led directly into the carpark with no “T” arcade.
The purchasing power of the district was starting to rapidly change with a number of new subdivisions being built and young families moving into the district. In 1969 Congalton ranked 368 Sydney suburbs and placed Beecroft at No. 54. Equivalent suburbs were Strathfield, Hunters Hill and Chatswood. This is reflected in the range of shops available including the number of clothing stores, an antiques shop and arts and music stores. During this time the use of delivery services ceased.
Beecroft Road looking north c1966
This period saw the second (and last) growth period in the shopping centre. During this period the complex set back from Wongala was built, the Module complex was constructed (in 1972, again with its own carpark) and the “T” section of the Village arcade was added.
The experience of shopping in Beecroft village changed greatly in the years after WW11.
Prior to these changes there were a few stores along Beecroft Road. In Wongala Crescent (then Railway Crescent) the most notable stores were a butchery, Sparks bootmaking shop, an adjacent milkbar and two pharmacies, one on each corner of Hannah Street, opposite the railway station. There was a cluster of four shops on the northside of Hannah Street and two shops on the south side. The most prominent building in the village was the Bank of New South Wales on the corner of Hannah Street and Beecroft Road, opposite the Post Office. Houses still existed on Hannah Street between the commercial buildings, including the home and medical practice of Dr Terry and the home and surgery of dentist Ozzie Seale. The village stores provided essential foodstuffs and services. An exception was a small commercial lending library, now the site of a clothing boutique. In the 1940s the relatively new Liberal Party of Australia opened a small office and meeting room in Railway Crescent. After meetings, the Secretary, Mr Allnutt, was known to distribute cakes left over from the previous night’s supper, to selected local children.