The first store in Preston was probably Woods general store on the corner of High Street and Wood Street. It was the Preston counterpart of the Bastings General Store in Northcote.
Like Northcote, Preston’s earliest industries were primarily rural, and this is reflected in the earliest shops. Apart from the Pioneer, or General stores, Preston in the 1860s had the typical blacksmiths, shoemakers, bakers and publicans. It also had a strong market garden industry.
In these early days these shops were cluster into three main areas; around the intersection of High Street and Plenty Road, around Bell Street and on High Street near Regent Street.
Twenty years later the scene had changed little. True the population had increased but the suburb was still firmly rural, despite the establishment of brickworks and tanneries. Nearly eighty farmers and gardeners were registered in the Sands and McDougall directories for Preston in 1884. In comparison Northcote had fifteen.
By the turn of the century Preston’s shops had begun to spread along the length of High Street and although there were still empty paddocks across from the Preston Town Hall in 1907 they began to be replaced by shops. However it was not until the 1920s that High Street finally began to fill. Plenty Road also began to develop its own shopping strip although it was never as extensive as High Street. There were numerous ironmongers along both High Street and Plenty Road, including the Marshall Brothers, Inglis and Pikes.
In 1964 Myer Department Stores announced the building of a new shopping centre on Murray Road. Set on 21 hectatres, the new shopping centre, to be known as Northland, was to be one of the biggest in Victoria at the time. It would include a three storey Myer store, a post office, medical centre, cinemas, and up to eighty specialty stores. The centre was completed in 1966 and has increased significantly in size over the last forty years.
The opening of Northland did little to help the strip shopping along High Street and it continues to struggle against the large shopping centres like Northland, Chadstone and Southland.
Carroll, Brian & Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.
Sands and McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1864- 1974. [Microfiche]. (1974). Melbourne, Australia: Sands & McDougall.