Cessnock District Co-operative Society Limited (1907-1977)
The Hunter Valley has a proud history of retail co-operatives, stores owned and managed by their customers who supply the capital to build the business and then share in its profits.
Its a wonderful consumer model where the customer wins and a business grows.
In Cessnock we had an extraordinarily successful Co-op which ran for 70 years and sold everything. From birth, even to death, there was a service or a product available for its members. Selling groceries, haberdashery, childrens and babys needs, footwear, womens and mens clothing, the Co-op was a true one-stop shop.
It took control of some food production too, having its own in-house bakery a large two-storey building known as the Bread and Pastry Factory. It had multiple butchery departments across its many branches, even owning 200 acres at Nulkaba bought specifically to use as slaughter yards.
The Cessnock and Aberdare Co-operative Society Limited opened its doors 110 years ago in May 1907, operating out of a small rented shop. Despite these humble beginnings the business was an immediate success. By the end of that year the Co-op had bought its first block of land, on the corner of Vincent and Cooper Streets, constructing a large two-storey premises which opened in 1909.
The Co-operative model was so successful that it opened branch stores: Bellbird in 1917, Kearsley in 1918, Aberdare in 1919, West Cessnock and Paxton in 1926. The world was changing and the Co-op changed with it, in 1935 building a large modern petrol station to service the growing private car market.
When an undertakers business in Hall Street came up for sale they snapped it up, adding a chapel and become the first Co-operative Society in Australia to establish a funeral department.
The Cessnock District Co-operative Society Limited, as it later became known, began to falter from the late 1960s. Its situation became increasingly critical, eventually forcing the shareholder members to amalgamate with the Newcastle and Suburban Co-Operative Store from August 1977. Three years later the Newcastle Co-op, the last of the co-operative stores in the Hunter Valley, closed its doors.