The furniture retailing firm of R.G. Nesbitt opened for business in rented premises at 102 Baylis Street Wagga in May 1910 and has operated in the city ever since, making it one of the oldest continuing businesses in the city.
Founded by Robert George Nesbitt, the business quickly prospered allowing him to purchase the property and expand the size of the store.
In 1920 he again expanded the showroom and built living quarters for his family above the store.
The business continued to grow through the depression years and by the 1950’s had become Wagga’s largest furniture retailer.
Robert Nesbitt passed away in 1956 and control of the company passed to his sons Neville and Jack.
Australia’s comparative affluence following World War II allowed Nesbitt’s to consolidate its position of prominence in Wagga so much so that the advertising slogan – ‘ When you think furniture, think Nesbitt’s Wagga’ had become almost a truism.
This happy state of affairs came to an abrupt end on the morning of May 4, 1959 when a devastating fire roared through the building destroying most of the store.
A report in the Daily Advertiser described the impact of the fire; ‘Nine firemen were injured while they fought for almost four hours against the spectacular inferno.
… At the height of the fire flames and smoke shot hundreds of feet into the air and firemen were hampered by bullets and cartridges which were exploding inside the building.
More than 1500 people packed into the block outside the store to watch the fire while hundreds more watched it from a lane at the rear of the building.’
Within hours of the fire, Neville and Jack Nesbitt had re-commenced business in a small shop several doors down from the smouldering ruins and within a year had rebuilt on the burnt-out shell.