Francis Spite & Co.
FRANCIS SPITE & Co., Limited, Wholesale and Retail Grocers, Druggists, and Italian Warehousemen, 26, 28, and 30, St. Enoch Square, Glasgow.
There are probably few establishments of the kind in the United Kingdom that take so comprehensive a form as that of Messrs. Francis Spite & Co., Ltd., of Glasgow. The founder of the enterprise, Mr. Francis Spite, has had a life-long experience of business, which, as the most cursory view of the immense concern in St. Enoch Square will sufficiently evidence, he has turned to most excellent account.
Mr. Spite was born at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, serving his apprenticeship there. After a few years spent with the old and renowned firm of Stableforth and Dandy, in Spalding, he removed to London, and entered the house of Messrs. James Budgett and Son, Limited, eventually becoming one of their travellers. In the year 1876 he came to Glasgow and opened up a fine business on his own account in New City Road.
Keenly alive to the commercial necessities of a fiercely competitive age, he adopted a strictly cash system, acted on the dictum of quick returns and small profits, supplied only the freshest and best goods, and soon found himself in possession of a rapidly growing business, to which department after department was added with pleasing rapidity. A more commodious and central location soon became imperative, and, opportunely, the superb premises now occupied were secured. He had felt bottom thoroughly by this time, and henceforth the process of evolution was a rapid one. The Economic Supply Stores soon justified their designation, and came rapidly to the front among the mammoth establishments of the City.
The premises occupy a fine position in St. Enoch Square, in the centre of the side opposite to the great station of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company. The front is imposing enough, rising as it does to six lofty storeys, but the architectural features of the structure have been subordinated to utilitarian ones. The lower storey is simply a range of doors and lofty plate-glass windows, above which appears the designation of the concern, prefixed by the letters S. P. Q. R. (Small Profits and Quick Returns) indicating the leading maxim of the business. Springing from the cornice, above the name of the firm, eight slender pilasters run right to the roof, crossed by the mouldings of each storey, and affording the maximum of space for window purposes. The upper and attic storeys are handsomely ornamented, balustraded, and arcaded after a richly carved design. In the immense space of the interior are housed all the various departments of the business, perfectly organised, fully manned, and equipped with every speciality.
The fittings, down to the Lamson cash railways, have been designed and carried out in the most excellent manner, offering at once first-rate convenience for both shelving and display of goods. Many of the assistants are young ladies, adding an additional charm to the busy scene. Mr. Spite is the Managing Director, and practically controls the entire business. Associated with him in the directorate of the Company are Mr. H. C. Harrison (who devotes himself mainly to financial and counting-house management) and Mr. James Cockburn (who has sole charge of the Drug and Dispensing Department).
The Company is a limited one, and was organised in order to carry on the Drug and Dispensing Department in accordance with certain legislative provisions, which required that one of the partners should be a qualified pharmaceutical chemist. This was effected in November, 1887, and the firm henceforth took its present corporate title. It is very difficult to give any adequate idea of this vast and comprehensive concern. The general idea seems to be the supply, as far as possible, of every requirement of customers as far as they can be associated with the main business. Thus, in this emporium, there are, in addition to the grocery, provision, and drug sections, a fleshers department and confectionery and stationery departments. Powerful lifts, too, run from bottom to top, offering great facility for transport. An efficient executive and distributive organisation attends to the prompt delivery of goods to all parts of the City and suburbs, the railway stations, and steamboat offices. Such, in brief, are a few of the external features of this great enterprise.
Let us now turn for a moment to the penetralia of the business itself. It would be idle to attempt to catalogue even one in a thousand of the innumerable items dealt in, considering that, since all are uniformly of special value, it would be invidious to point to this or that article as indicating the high level on which operations were pursued. The main, as it is the original, element of the business is the range of departments dealing with grocery, provision, Italian, and oilmens specialities. This may include the fresh meat department since added. Now even a cursory inspection will soon impress upon the visitor that in these departments, both as regards the wholesale and retail trade, the house is facile princeps in the City, and holds the most select and valuable stock, procured from the best sources, bearing the most celebrated brands, and of the freshest selection. In fact, so far as the freshness of the goods goes, the enormous and rapid turnover of the house and its resources gives it at once an opportunity of continually buying new stock, and of buying it in the great markets of Liverpool or London on exceptional terms and in large quantities. Whether it be Wiltshire bacon or Stilton cheese, French confections or Irish eggs, Belfast hams or kippered herrings, the customer is always sure of obtaining the best goods on the market at the lowest possible price. When the multitudinous items of the grocery and Italian business are considered, this high state of commercial efficiency speaks volumes for the ability of Mr. Spite, his departmental chiefs, and buyers.
It is necessary to say a word, in conclusion, about the
splendid Drug and Dispensing section, now over three years in existence. The
general drug shop and dispensing department occupies, conveniently, a portion of
the ground floor. Great attention is given to procure drugs of the finest
quality, a point of vital importance in critical cases. The manager, as we have
previously stated, is Mr. James Cockburn, for five years with the Glasgow
Apothecaries Company, and a qualified pharmacist. Briefly, the stock includes
all the drugs and preparations of our own and foreign pharmacopaeias, a complete
list of the best patent medicines, a great number of proprietary preparations at
easy prices, medical, surgical, and household appliances, rubber goods,
perfumery, toilet requisites, and fancy articles innumerable
Among hundreds of preparations bearing the proprietary label of this eminent firm one has come rapidly into prominent notice. It is designated Pepsonymin (rather a jaw-breaker), and seems to promise the long-wished-for relief of indigestion and acidity of the stomach. If our modern pessimism arises, as has been asserted, from indigestion, the effect will be valuable, even in a moral point of view. We shall have no more croaking. However, to be serious, we will only say that the medicine has been commended by the highest authorities, and testimony to its effect is abundant even in the neighbourhood. Health, edited by Dr. Andrew Wilson, F.R.S.E., says, in its weekly issue of 26th September : Under the name of Pepsonymin, Messrs. Francis Spite and Co., of 26 to 30, St. Enoch Square, Glasgow, have introduced to public notice a preparation likely to be of great benefit to all suffering from acidity and indigestion. We have been favoured with a sight of the formula of Pepsonymin, and can assure our readers that it contains no deleterious drugs, but is compounded of pure and wholesome substances, calculated to exercise a very decided and beneficial effect on the digestive act, in so far as the stomach work is concerned. This powder is taken after food ; it is practically tasteless, and should become a popular antacid and digestive both from its efficacy and its moderate price.
The firm have opened two branch establishments for the convenience of suburban customers, both splendid in their capacity and equipment, and worthy offshoots of this enterprising Company., One is in the handsome new buildings at Victoria Road, Crosshill, and the other in Duke Street, Dennistoun, and both will be of great value to customers residing in these important districts. Beyond the enormous and rapidly increasing volume of their home trade, both wholesale and retail, Messrs. Francis Spite and Co. do a considerable Colonial and Foreign business. No doubt there is a splendid field of enterprise here, and no one is better qualified than they to control it. Mr. Spite is as yet a young man, not seriously over forty, and, judging from the past, he knows how to take advantage of the rising tide of fortune either at home or abroad. We wish him every success in the interests of the public.
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