The coach-building and wheelwright business established by John Gelme in Wagga Wagga at the turn of the 20th Century started in a small way but very quickly grew to become one of Wagga’s premier manufacturing businesses.
Gelme’s first premises were in Johnston Street, he having taken over the business of Rae and Wright in 1899. At that time the staff consisted only of himself and two other men.
By 1905, the business grew to be known as “The John Gelme Carriage and Waggon Manufactory” and had moved to Baylis Street. Gelme designed the new building with a frontage of 100 feet and, with a staff of twenty men, he had one of the largest manufacturing businesses in Wagga Wagga.
When advertising the change of address from his Johnston Street premises, Gelme apologised for having to refuse work because of being so busy. The introduction of his new complete plant, the latest machinery and increased staff, would alleviate this problem and all orders would be able to be fulfilled.
One of the additions to his new premises was a large showroom for display of his “high class sulky and buggy exhibits.”
Just a couple of years later, Gelme branched out into engineering, adding the department to his factory and employing Mr George Blackie as engineer.
In November 1911, registration was granted to the new company of John Gelme Ltd with capital of £10,000 in £1 shares. John Gelme became Managing Director, with TWW Burgess and WJ Monks as Office Managers.
In 1913, the business was relocated to Tompson Street and the Strand Theatre was built in its place (later known as the Plaza Theatre).
John Gelme retired from his position as Managing Director and moved to Sydney after a long and successful business career in Wagga Wagga.