131-141 Queen Street
Milne & Choyce was the first of Auckland’s department stores, growing out of a millinery and drapery business in Wyndham Street that Mary Jane Milne and her sister Charlotte acquired in 1867.
They positioned themselves as fashion forward, advertising in the Evening News. In 1874 they moved to bigger premises on the corner of Queen and Wellesley Streets and Charlotte married Henry Charles Choyce. Two years later the sisters’ firm became known as Milne & Choyce when Henry joined Mary Jane as a business partner. When a prime position on Queen Street “between the banks” became available in 1909, they bought it and there (with various rebuilds and an expansion from three to seven floors) Milne & Choyce remained until it was sold, restructured and rebranded as Milnes, moving to the new Downtown Shopping Centre in the mid 1970s.
They cultivated their reputation as the fashion leaders, maintaining a large workroom that made to order. Their own in-house designers interpreted the latest trends for the store. Seasonal window displays drew “crowds from all over Auckland and New Zealand in fact! They used traffic control to move the people along,” recalls Bruce Papas, who worked as a designer for Milne & Choyce until 1965.
Sponsorship of a parade in 1947 of the controversial “New Look” garments, direct from Paris, is reputed to have helped change local attitudes to the longer length skirts. In the late 1950s ‘Teen Departments’ were a new idea and here too Milne & Choyce lead the charge establishing their ‘Miss’ department.