MYER, Sidney Baerski (1879-1934)

MYER, Sidney Baerski (1879-1934)
was born near Warsaw, then Russian Poland, on 8 February 1879. His father was a storekeeper of Jewish origin. Myer came to Australia in 1897, obtained a position with a relation in Melbourne, but soon went to Bendigo and with his brother, E. B. Myer, opened a shop. This not proving very successful, Sidney Myer took his goods, stockings, laces, etc., from door to door, and, in spite of having little English, sold his wares. He then bought a cart and travelled through country towns. The business was later moved to Pall Mall, Bendigo, where it prospered, other shops were added, and later the Bendigo business of Craig Williamson and Thomas was bought. In 1911 Myer purchased the business of Wright and Neil, Drapers, in Bourke-street, Melbourne, near the general post office, and a new building was completed and opened in 1914. The Doveton woollen mills at Ballarat were purchased in 1918, and in 1921 a new building fronting on Post Office Place, was added at Melbourne. The purchase of the old established businesses of Robertson and Moffat and Stephens and Son, followed, and in 1925 the new building on the Lonsdale-street frontage was begun. A separate building in Queensberry-street, Melbourne, was put up in 1928, and the Collins-street businesses of T. Webb and Sons, china importers, and W. H. Rocke and Company, house furnishers, were bought and transferred to the Bourke-street building. A public company had in the meantime been formed which by 1934 had a paid-up capital of nearly £2,500,000. A controlling interest in Marshall's Limited of Adelaide was also acquired. The company was then employing 5300 people with medical and nursing aid for the staff, and rest homes for them at the seaside and in the Dandenong Ranges. Some of Myer's friends and business associates feared that the business was developing too fast, but the company was in a prosperous state and fast recovering from the effects of a depression, when Myer died suddenly on 5 September 1934. He was married twice (1) to Miss Flegeltaub and (2) to Merlyn Baillieu, who survived him with two sons and two daughters. His will was proved at £922,000.
Myer was dark, dapper, and extremely active-minded, much interested in music, friendly, yet shunning publicity. He had a genius for business, with great capacity for getting at the essential facts, and great promptness of decision. He knew the value of good assistants and kept them, partly by inspiring their personal loyalty and partly by making it worth their while—he gave about 200,000 shares in the company to successful managers of departments. He also gave away much in charity, being a constant contributor to the Lord Mayor's fund and various hospitals. When a few years before his death there was much unemployment he provided £22,000 for its relief. He also gave 10,000 shares for the endowment of orchestral concerts, and 25,000 shares, worth at the time about £50,000, for the general funds of the university of Melbourne. He was an interesting instance of a man who started without capital or other advantages, and by means of hard work, honesty, and ability, established a great business and himself became a millionaire.
The Argus, Melbourne, 6 September 1934, 28 December 1939; The Age, Melbourne, 6 September 1934; The Herald, Melbourne, 5 September 1934; private information.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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