Almo’s Store, 5 John Street, Rosewood, Ipswich, early 1990s
Photo: Kathryn Rodgers Source: Picture Ipswich
After 136 years–
the closure of the last Rosewood business with an Evans’ descendant as a proprietor.
“Almo’s”, an iconic Rosewood business, closed its doors for the final time on the 8th of October 2022.
Unfortunately, owners William and Elizabeth Mogensen could not continue running the business because of Will’s health issues and so they accepted an offer to buy the building. Shoes, clothes, and other stock lines were depleted in probably the longest closing down sale Rosewood has ever seen. Will was always pleased to give his customers value for money, so it isn’t only his family and friends who now have many years’ supply of shoes.
Will and Elizabeth bought the business from Will’s mother, Mary Mogensen in 1980. Over the past 42 years they have focused their business on selling fashion shoes, sports shoes, work boots and some work shirts and men’s clothing. Good relationships with Brisbane Warehouses and other family owned shoe shops meant Will was able to buy brand name shoes at good prices and pass the savings on to his customers. Locals, day trippers and people who “know their shoes” would return to “Almo’s”, keen to see if he had any of their favourite brands in their size.
The stock in recent years was very different to what Mary and her husband Albert Mogensen (aka “ALMO”) sold in the first 32 years of the business.
Albert had been holidaying with his sister Tilly Quinlivan and her coal miner husband, Jack, when he met Rosewood local Phedora Mary Evans. Apprenticed to a cobbler after leaving school, Albert had learnt the complex boot making skills of hand sewing welted soled shoes and inverting and resoling dance pumps and was running his own business . He decided to rent a one room shop at 7 John Street, Rosewood and relocate his shoe repair business and basic footwear stock there.
Albert and Mary were married in 1949 and moved into their newly purchased home in Madden Lane. It had a large garage in which Albert built a photographic dark room. After shop hours, they worked on their emerging photographic business. Albert was taking photographs professionally as well as processing other people’s films. It was Mary’s job to trim each photo with a guillotine to make it square with the border and sort the orders against their negatives. At Albert’s suggestion, Mary went to Brisbane for classes in hand colouring sepia toned photos, so they could offer that service before coloured films became readily available.
Albert and Mary gradually built up their footwear stock in the rented shop. White sandshoes were big sellers. Children had them for sports and all the coal miners wore them to work -buying a new pair for 7/6 (75cents) every three or four weeks. There was not much variety in footwear (all leather or canvas), so it was also fairly easy to turn over school shoes and slippers.
In August 1956, Albert and Mary were able to negotiate a swap of their Madden Lane house within the purchase price of a building at 5 John Street. It had been a café with a house in the back of the building. They moved their family of three girls first, before turning the café into a shoe shop. Albert worked day and night altering the shop, shifting footwear stock and boot repairing sewing machines, shoe lasts, awls, sheets of leather, waxed thread, curved needles, and other tools of his trade. He also moved his photographic gear into a shed at the back of the property – this became “Almo’s Studio”. Over the years, numerous wedding groups and ball patrons had their photos taken and processed by “Almo the Cameraman” and many had their photos hand coloured by Mary.
“Almo’s” stock gradually diversified – necessitated by the drop in sand shoe sales to dwindling numbers of miners and prolonged droughts which meant farmers were not buying work or rubber boots. They stocked a variety of cameras and films. Almo started a Camera Club and a drop off service for films that would be sent to Kodak for processing. He took in bicycle repairs and, a keen cyclist himself, started selling bicycles. They arrived on the train in parts, and he assembled them for customers.
Over the next 25 years, “Almo’s” also sold balsa wood and model plane sets, chemistry sets and fireworks, model cars and toys, schoolbooks, and garden seeds as well as a wide range of work, sport, and fashion shoes.
William Albert was born in 1958 and like all the children, he helped in the shop and rode his bike delivering monthly accounts to the homes of customers. However, he showed more interest than the girls in the business and he helped his parents with the Rosewood store and a second one they opened in Amberley. He did work for Reid’s Store in Ipswich for a while after leaving school but soon returned to work full time in the family business.
The Amberley Store was closed in 1980 and Albert set off on a round Australia trip with his nephew, while Will and Mary ran the Rosewood business. Tragically, Albert died as the result of a car accident on that trip. Will took over the business with Mary continuing to help serve even when she moved out of the house at the back. Will and Elizabeth purchased the building in August 1985.
Will did not have the interest in photography or skills in shoe or bicycle repairs that his father had but he was an enthusiastic businessman, and he knew his shoes, so he concentrated on that side of the business. He enjoyed long chats with his customers or anyone else who called into the shop. As he was in Christian ministry for years, Will often joked he was into “soles and souls” as many of his chats turned into spiritual discussions or planning for one of the many funerals, he took for Rosewood locals. Will maintained and extended the networks in the Footwear industry that his parents had made and so “Almo’s” continued to operate for 74 years serving the people of Rosewood and shoe lovers from afar.
The closing of the shop comes at a sad time for the Mogensen family, as not only is it the sale of the business and their childhood home, but it also came at the time of Mary Mogensen’ s death. She entered her eternal home on the 19th of September at the age of 100 years and 9 months following a fall. She knew Will and Elizabeth would have to sell the shop and every opportunity she had in between covid lock downs, she would like to visit and check on the newly arrived stock and ask how business was going. When Phedora Mary Evans married “Almo” perhaps the sign Will had in his shop rang true….. “Cinderella is proof. Shoes can change your life”.
Mary had grown up on a dairy farm at “Pinegrove”, Tallegalla but she had “business blood”. Her grandfather, Joseph William Evans, who had farming interests in the district was also a chemist. He built the first chemist shop in Rosewood in 1886. Another grandfather, John William Vance, who was the first Gate Keeper at Rosewood Rail Station after the railway opened in 1865, opened a store with a Post Office just across the road from where “Almo’s” stood. In 1923, her father, John William Evans, built a galvanised iron building on this site to sell and service the motor cars that were becoming more popular in the area. It was sold in 1931 but bought back again in 1938 and became a family business, “Evans Brothers Garage”, with Mary working in their office before she was married.
Will and Elizabeth now live in Brisbane. They are looking forward to spending more time with their family and friends. They are truly grateful for the many dedicated staff who worked for them and their parents over the 74 years of the Mogensen family business; for their loyal, local customers- some families over four generations – who always “tried Almo’s”; and for other Rosewood business people and many wholesale distributors that have become good friends as well as great colleagues.
Almo’s has closed and with it the last business in Rosewood owned by one of the descendants of the early business pioneers – The Evans and Vance families. But will Will stop selling shoes? He said he hopes to continue to officiate at funerals for Rosewood locals….. will he continue to be involved with soles as well as souls? We will just have to wait and see………
Submitted by Coral Niethe (nee Mogensen)
Greatly appreciated reading this informative and sensitively written article. It caused some wonderful memories to come flooding back. Almo lived in a kinder, more gentle, and optimistic world, one sadly that has gone forever.
What better experience could a 14-year-old schoolboy enjoy in 1956 than having his latest roll of black and white film processed by Almo. The anticipation of collecting 12 new photos, wondering how they would turn out, was something special. I still have and treasure many of those photos, as well as the original negatives.
Among other things, I went on to have a satisfying and rewarding career in newspaper journalism and publications, with an enduring enthusiam for photography, due in no small part I believe to the immense joy I experienced as a schoolboy with my ancient Kodak Box Brownie and Almo’s prints.