Manager of Mackellys Grafton Tim Ellem with company director Andrew Kelly in front of the iconic Grafton business, which will close within the next few months.
Manager of Mackellys Grafton Tim Ellem with company director Andrew Kelly in front of the iconic Grafton business, which will close within the next few months. Adam Hourigan

Say goodbye to Mackellys

THE Clarence Valley's retail community is approaching the end of an era with the iconic department store Mackellys to soon close its doors in Grafton and Maclean.

The business's three shop-fronts – the Mackellys stores in Grafton and Maclean along with the Surface 2 Air store in Grafton – will close in the coming months after a tough decision by retiring director Andrew Kelly.

Mr Kelly, whose grandfather Jack Kelly was the co-founder of the business almost 100 years ago, said there was no fourth generation to pass the company on to, with each of his sons choosing vocations outside of retail.

“I'm getting to 60 this year and it's time for me to retire; my sister Jo would've had to have been the one to run the businesses and she felt that on her own it's just too much,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly also said the days of “the independent country department store” were unfortunately coming to an end.

“They're still opening them, but now they're called things like Target and Big W,” he said.

“They have all the advantages of a head office, buying power and the ability to negotiate good rent in key areas.”

Mackellys came into being as a joint-venture between Mr Kelly's grandfather, Jack, and his business partner, Arthur McCarthy, who opened the original business in Ulmarra in 1913.

Mr Kelly said the business name was a contraction of McCarthy and Kelly, but said it was still a mystery as to why Jack and Arthur snuck the letter ‘a' into ‘Mack'.

After opening in Ulmarra, the pair opened shops in Grafton and Maclean.

Mr McCarthy died in 1926, leaving the direction of the business to Jack, who kept the original name.

Mr Kelly said Mackellys was the last of the Clarence Valley's independent department stores and the decision to close was not easy.

“It's sad in a lot of ways; it's been a long 97 years so it's mixed emotions really, that'd be the best way to say it,” he said.

“There's also been a lot of disappointment from customers that we're closing.”

Mr Kelly said the three stores had about 23 employees, who he said were like family.

“They understand the decision, but they obviously aren't elated, which is quite understandable; you know they've now got their futures to consider,” he said.

“There are some very talented people here that I'm sure they won't take long in finding work because there's a lot of quality amongst them.”

Mr Kelly thanked the dedicated and colourful staff he had worked with over the years and also the loyal customers of Mackellys and Surface 2 Air.

He said there would be plenty of bargains in the coming weeks as the business begins to clear existing stock and appealed for any local employers in need of excellent workers to call Mackellys on 66422788.



Fancy yourself a dairy farmer?

premium_icon Fancy yourself a dairy farmer?

Opportunity to take part in a Clarence Valley family business

Maclean farewells a man of the Clarence River

premium_icon Maclean farewells a man of the Clarence River

The Lower Clarence community lay to rest one of its river sons

Why Alan Jones' 'sock down the throat' comment is dangerous

premium_icon Why Alan Jones' 'sock down the throat' comment is dangerous

Shock jock out of line with 'shove a sock down her throat' comment