Ashgrove Historical Society Inc. logo and name png

  • ArtS1 Grove Estate Plan 1888

    Advertisement for auction sale of lots in Grove Estate, on Saturday 4th February 1888.
    AHS archive no - AHS146

  • ArtS2 Grove Estate map c. 1900

    Grove Estate plan, c.1900. 

  • ArtS3 Ashgrove scouts 1909

    Ashgrove scouts, 1909
    AHS archive no: - 915

  • ArtS3 Seils Dairy Delivery Van 1930s

    Seils Dairy Milk Delivery Van, 1930s, a 1926 Willy’s Whippet,  owned by Seils' Dairy, Toomba Avenue, Ashgrove.  Milk was carried in the Dicky seat. 
    Source:  Neil & Jeanette Seils.

  • ArtS4 Waterworks Road, 1924

    Section of Waterworks Road showing the rough condition of the roadway.  1924.
    John Oxley Library digital image #201390

  • ArtS5 Old St Finbarrs Church Hall 1926

    Old St Finbarrs Church Hall,  Scan, 1926
    AHS Archive No: AHS523

  • ArtS6 Padmore Butcher Ashgrove Crescent c.1946

    WA Padmore, Quality Butcher, Ashgrove Crescent, c. 1946. 
    Source:  Desley Drevins.
    AHS Archive No: 559

  • ArtS7 Tram at Ashgrove West terminus, 1951

    Toast-rack tram No. 65 at the Ashgrove West tram terminus, in front of the Ashgrove West Uniting Church. 1969.

  • ArtS8 Grantuly Ashgrove

    Grantuly, the home of John Killough Stewart, son of Alexander Stewart of Glenlyon House.

Ashgrove West Family Shop


465 Waterworks Road Ashgrove West.


A talk presented to the Ashgrove Historical Society on Saturday 2 July 2016 by Julie Nichles.


I would like to begin this talk about the Nichles Shop in West Ashgrove with a little history of Jim’s father, and my father-in-law, Nick Nichles.  His proper name was Nicolaos Antonios Koocooles.  He was born on the island of Kythera in Greece in 1888.  He spent some time in Asia Minor with his mother before emigrating to Australia on the shop Ombrak in 1904.

As was common with Greek immigrants of that era, he changed his name.  Australians had difficulty with foreign names and Dad was teased so he decided to use his christian name as his surname and mucked up the spelling.

In the years before coming to Ashgrove, Dad had businesses in Warwick, Coolangatta and Murwillumbah and for seven years was in New Zealand in the town of Fielding and then Wellington.  Jim went to school in both places.  Dad’s claim to fame was that while in the Bluebird Café in Warwick, he sold eggs that were thrown  at Billy Hughes at a public meeting.  He had worked as a stock and station agent, sold hides and even tried to enlist in the First World War but was rejected because of flat feet.

On returning to Australia from New Zealand in 1948, the family moved to Jubilee Terrace and Dad bought a mixed business in New Farm which he ran with the help of his daughter.  On her marrying and his lease expiring, he bought the property and business at 465 Waterworks Road.  The area was referred to as the Ashgrove Terminus, now known as Ashgrove West.  We weren’t able to establish at the Titles Office exactly the year Dad bought the shop but thankfully Frank O’Hare, whose memory is better than Jim’s, tells us it was 1953.  Jim joined Dad in the business and continued till 1960/1 when they built the arcade which later became known as the Sugarcane Arcade under new owners.  It was the first business for Jim and the last business for Dad.

When Dad bought the shop, Frank tells us that on the right hand side there was a shed which Frank subsequently rented as his first dental surgery.  No one can remember if Mac the barber was there before the Nichles.

The shop faced Waterworks Road and there were two steps up into it.  When the Nichles bought it, it was a mixed business.  Dad, with the entrepreneurial flare, put in a milk bar and lollies on the right hand side of the shop as well as a deli section.  Neither of us can remember if there was a deep freeze section.

On the left hand side was the fruit and vegetables followed by the grocery section.  Later on, Dad introduced paints and hardware.  Jim’s mother used to help out as did I when I married Jim in 1955.  The Nichles employed a young local woman by the name of Jill Chapman and later on another young girl named Ethel.

In those days, items like flour, sugar etc. were weighed and packaged by us.  Also in those days, companies would send their sales representatives to take our orders and then  the goods would be delivered to the shop.  Some of the companies were Tristrams and Coca Cola, Kirks; C.O.D for fruit and vegetables who would come twice a week and produce was bought from the truck;  Tickles for cigarettes and tobacco; Arnotts, Cadburys and Nestles;  Campbells for groceries and Hoffnungs.  And of course it was not just taking an order; conversations with the reps was the norm.  In later years when Jim and I had shops, we would either have to go ourselves to the wholesalers or found it cheaper to go to the supermarkets and buy from them.

There was always time for a conversation with the customers.  A couple came to the shop every day and chatted to Dad and Jim and I was surprised at this couple;  the woman obviously ‘worked’ in the city (very unusual for that time).

There was a good size kitchen in the back where Dad would cook whole hams in a kerosene tin on a very low flame (it took hours).  Couldn’t do that today!  The health authorities would not be happy!

We sold fresh poultry, provided by local poultry farmers and our eggs came from Mr Hilder at The Gap.  The shop’s most distinguishing feature was the billy cans hanging at the entrance to the shop.

I forgot to mention that on entering the shop, at the very front, there was a newspaper and magazine counter.  We sold the Courier Mail, the Telegraph, Woman’s Weekly, Australasian Post, Motor Mechanic etc. Dad, who was a very nice and gentle man, could however get quite cross when young students from Boys Grammar, on hopping off the tram, would come into the shop, buy a milkshake and then proceed to read all the magazines.  Dad would go up to them and ask if they intended to buy.   They would politely move away a bit and after Dad would leave them, they would continue reading.

At one time we had a sixteen year old cousin of Jim’s, newly arrived from Greece and working in the shop and Jim, having inherited his father’s entrepreneurship, got in a box of water pistols.  We also sold school lunches for the students of Ashgrove State School, so one lunch time, the two Jims decided to have a water fight out on the footpath and of course the children wanted to join in and bought all the pistols (which was the point of the exercise I think!).  Frank O’Hare, hearing the commotion from his surgery, came out to see what was happening, decided he wanted a piece of the action and went back into his surgery and emerged with a big syringe and joined in the fray.

Our customers were mainly locals and some shopped daily and others weekly and Jim would do deliveries.  One Friday afternoon in 1960, Jim was delivering an order and the voice of the lady of the house called out, “Jim, drop the groceries  and come and watch this!”  Jim obliged and ended up witnessing the last ball being bowled in the historic Australia v West Indies tied test match.

Some of our customers were from the local businesses such as Mr and Mrs Usher from the drapery, Marie the hairdresser, Mr Adams the post-master and some residents, the Handleys, Storeys and Chapmans.

At the back of the shop was a big yard so Dad bought a goat to keep the grass down and as it happened, the goat escaped and great fun as the local shopkeepers were trying to help Jim capture the goat which was heading down to St Johns Wood.

When we researched at the State Library, we found advertisements placed in the Grove News, and as well as what I have already mentioned, we were surprised to read that we sold fireworks for Guy Fawkes night (I still miss our own fireworks).  We also found that we sold electrical goods, Anderson’s seeds, back-to-school specials - 8 sheet feint ruled exercise books, pencils and ruler usually 2/- now 3 for 1/6, polythene canisters for 2 pounds and seventeen shillings and sixpence, our price 2 pounds 11/-.

“Make your Layby now on Christmas Presents and Toys, Come and Inspect, No Obligation”

“Orders Taken for Christmas Hams and Poultry”

“Prime Dressed Capons, 6/- per pound”

“Dressed Hens 5/6 per pound”

“Christmas Uncooked Hams – cooked no extra charge”.


All this continued till Dad and Jim decided to build the Arcade to replace the old shop.  This was around 1960/61.


Dad Nichles was the driving force because of his age and experience but Jim’s and Dad’s relationship was one of loving mutual respect and we were the richer for it.