Pollokshields Heritage History

Alexander Massey (1851-1935)

Commissioned Ardenvohr, 223 Nithsdale RoadA Massey & Sons

Alexander Massey set up his first provision shop In Crown Street. Gorbals in 1872 in direct competition to Sir Thomas Lipton who opened his first shop in Stobcross Street. Anderston a year earlier. In the 1880's he purchased warehouses and curing houses on a rectangular piece of ground at Thistle Street and Cleland Street which by the 1890's could hold around 10,000 hams at anyone time. His smoke houses were capable of curing 1000 hams a day. This wholesale complex was spread over three floors With a staff of 65 producing a 130,000 hams a year. This guaranteed a constant supply of quality bacon and hams for his Glasgow shops and allowed for excess production to be sold to other city grocers.

By 1895 Massey had opened branches in Edinburgh, Dundee, Greenock and Paisley but the majority of his shops were still in Glasgow. The majority of Massey's shops were leased from tenement owners which worked well until his two sons Alexander Jnr and John began to take an interest in the business. Influenced by other Glasgow based retail chains, the sons favoured purchasing the shop premises and expanding to become integrated provision and grocery merchants and to this end packaged tea was the first item added to the stock. In 1913 Alexander Massey formed a private company with his two sons, becoming chairman for as long as he held £5000 of the company's capital. His sons expanded the business while Massey lived a life of gentlemanly leisure at his home on the Clyde coast. His sons' expansion failed due to increased customer expectations, competition and a downward trend in prices and profits. In 1929 the Margarine Union offered Massey £149,000 for his business and offered positions within the group for the sons. The red frontage and gilt lettering style of Alexander Massey & Co, would continue. Such an offer was too good to refuse and in 1930 Alexander Massey sold his business. He died at his Pollokshields home on 29th August 1935 aged 84.