Old photographs of Michelle Stewart in the newspaper at her William St hair salon.
Old photographs of Michelle Stewart in the newspaper at her William St hair salon. FILE

Reliving the golden days of business in William St

MICHELLE Stewart may not be a "woman of William St" any more, but she was once upon a time.

The Rockhampton born and bred woman once owned a business in the street, in the iconic Diggora Terrace, du Warrens Hair Salon.

This was the 1980s and back then, the same block housed another group of amazing women in business.

In the last few years new businesses have opened up and now there are six out of eight businesses in the block owned by women.

"Diggora Terrace has always drawn exceptional women to the area and I am so excited to see and support the businesses which have established themselves here once again," Ms Stewart said.

Ms Stewart came to Rockhampton from Sydney after her parents moved here from New Zealand.

She was working for another hairdresser, Betty Thomas, when she set heard about the du Warren salon Hair Salon coming up for sale and she set her sights on acquiring it.

Being 19 years old at the time, it was very hard to get a loan but she eventually got one and paid $15,000 for the building and she lived in the apartment upstairs.

This was the empty store where part of Patchwork Paradise was located, next to Katie B boutique.

 

Michelle Stewart.
Michelle Stewart at Dingles Cafe Bar, where Melbourne Fish Bar was a thriving takeaway. Customers would line the streets on Friday and Saturday nights for fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. Allan Reinikka ROK211218amichell

 

She had it from 1981-1987 and the other shops included The Melbourne Fish Bar, Carol Palms Antiques, Gail Grant - Occasional Decor, Marion Marriner - Marion's Beauty Spot, Catherine Cruikshank - Diversions Boutique.

They even used to go to the old "Dunny" - the Dunmore Hotel for drinks - where City Walk Motor Inn is on the corner of William and Campbell Sts or Bartletts.

On a night they worked late, they used to go to the Masonic and Citizens Club and got a meat and vegetables for $3.

With everyone living upstairs, it was a close knit little community between the shop owners.

"And they were all owned by entrepreneurial women... it was quite an exciting time," she said.

"It was the best six years of my life as a young adult.

"Lots of country people used to flock to this area because of what was there."

This was the days of the big hair day and the salon was very different.

It would be "nothing" for them to do 70 perms leading up to Christmas week, she said.

 

 

Old photographs of Michelle Stewart in the newspaper at her William St hair salon.
Old photographs of Michelle Stewart in the newspaper at her William St hair salon. FILE

The perms were around $13 and when everything was paid in cash, you went to the bank every day.

"Lots of perms, lot of curls, regular clients every week for their shampoo and set, they would bring in their wigs and hairpieces," Ms Stewart said.

"Everyone had curling irons, no straightening irons.

"Fringes and bangs and the Princess Dianna haircut, everyone wanted it.

"You'd have your perm and you'd blow dry with the big fat round brush.

"Now I know salons that don't even teach their apprentices how to do a perm."

Around the early 1990s things started to change and people moved their businesses to the out of town shopping centres.

"For a long time not a lot went on here at all," Ms Stewart said.

"In the last five years, things starting to come back and it's really come back to its own again.

"I have been watching it from the side.

"It has been interesting how it all went away and now it's come back again...if you didn't know, this could be any shopping strip in any capital city.

"I have loved watching it re-evolve."