After being vacant for over 2 decades, the space between Stonefield Tavern and the Co-op tall building was built upon again when the Blantyre Co-operative Society expanded their existing premises to the immediate west.
By 1954, the Co-op had acquired the vacant ground formerly the site of John Coats house and bake-house and their plan was to extend their Co-op building adjacent. It was to be a modern, brick and timber constructed building which would become known as the ‘Co-op Emporium’. The modern facade incorporated 9 distinctive circular porthole type windows, a unique feature unlike anything in Blantyre. The upper storey had mainly glass windows, which in subsequent years would be boarded up.
When it opened in 1954, crowds of people flocked to see the new building and a small ceremony was conducted by Daniel Morrison, the manager of the nearby Co-op. The event coincided with the formal end of remaining rationed items and the timing close to a few other co-op shops becoming self service, or more like modern supermarkets.
In the following picture, Daniel addresses the crowd upon opening. Others have incorrectly suggested this was Gordon Jackson, the famous actor at the ceremony. It was definitely not, although he does have resemblance.
The photos show the timber roof trusses being constructed in 1954 on Glasgow Road, from the nearby vantage point of Station Road. Gordon Cook who kindly shared this photo added it may even have been on his first visit to David Livingstone Centre.
The Co-op Emporium was very much part of the series of Co-op Buildings in this location. It could also be accessed from the adjacent Co-op funeral parlour. It was to serve Blantyre well. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, it sold furniture, ornaments and haberdashery, ladies, men and children’s clothing and was the place to go to get school uniforms. By the early 1970’s the upstairs sold vinyl records, radios and radiograms. The address was 227 Glasgow Road, even although the Tavern next door is 225-229.
Upstairs also had a payment desk where people could pay for their hire purchase goods or spend their collected “divi”. The idea of co-operative trading revolutionised retailing with the dividend, often known as “divi”, and the “divi number” became a part of British life. Many Blantyre residents remember their divi number, some still using it for modern banking pin codes. The way in which co-operative retail societies run on behalf of their members sets them apart from their modern-day competitors. The dividend was and still is a financial reward to members based on each member’s level of trade with the society. The distribution of profits on the basis of turnover rather than capital invested is a fundamental difference between a co-operative and most private sector enterprises. Co-op points cards currently today pay a 4% divided.
By the late 1970’s, the Emporium like many of Glasgow Road’s buildings was boarded up in 1980 and was still vacant in 1981, until shortly after when the Clydesdale Bank moved in.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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