WARRNAMBOOL'S oldest continuous business has traded through two world wars, two economic depressions and right now another pandemic as it notches up 155 years on Saturday.
Swintons Furniture and Bedding's fourth-generation owner Geoff Swinton said it was local support that has helped the store weather highs and lows.
"When COVID hit it went very quiet for a short time but then we found local people came to the front, farmers and local people started making some purchases and we were very lucky it continued on," Mr Swinton said of trade this year.
"Some days we were just taking $100 and there was only two of us in the shop. If it continued like it did for the first couple of weeks you do think 'how is the business going to survive'. But thanks to Warrnambool's strength people came in."
Scottish settlers William and Ann Swinton established the Timor Street premises in 1865, selling groceries, glass, china and pottery.
"The business started as a universal provider to supply goods for the goldfields," Mr Swinton said.
It's been a beacon through economic highs and lows and even at one stage had five stores spread from Cudgee, south Warrnambool, west Warrnambool, Wangoom and Nullawarre.
Today it's among few surviving family businesses of its age in Australia.
Warrnambool's Helen Dean recalls a family memory when her parents Keith and Joyce Swinton managed the store during World War II when rationing made stock so scarce the family would take trips to Melbourne to fill their car with goods despite fuel restrictions.
"The police pulled them up and said 'oh yes, you're going to Warrnambool ... why are you using fuel?' They said 'we have to take the baby to Melbourne.' He said 'what baby?' And I was in a bassinet on the back seat," Ms Dean said.
She recalled her father juggling caring for her grandfather with Parkinson's disease, giving him three meals a day at the Warrnambool Base Hospital while managing the war-time era store.
"It was extremely difficult for my father," Ms Dean said, adding the store had always been "a survivor".
"I think they have always been very conscious of the town and the district," she said.
"The background of being Scottish did help. It was built into their culture that you had to be careful and look out for tomorrow."
Ms Dean also remembered parades on Timor Street in the 1950s when a visiting circus came to town, which she admitted seemed unpopular today, but involved elephant rides on the street and lion cubs in the store's toy department.
People flocked to see her mother Joyce's themed window decorations, including her painting of a London backdrop to mark Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953 and yearly Christmas displays.
A Dutch designer also installed mechanical-operated window displays, which pleased crowds.
Frank Swinton took over the store from brother Keith and Joyce in 1978, and the supermarket was sold in 1985 as well as the complex freehold in 1988.
Frank's son Geoff took over the business in 1988, six years later overseeing a project to double the store's showroom size as the business moved to specialise in furniture.
"Like all department stores they became difficult to run in the times, it was better to specialise," Mr Swinton said.
Since then, he says Warrnambool shoppers have been particularly drawn to leather over the decades while he has seen an industry-wide shift towards imported furniture.
"Locally-sourced production would be a great asset if we could get it to fire up again," Mr Swinton said.
"We have been very careful what we buy. We spend a lot of time researching and travelling to find the products people want, we have a certain standard we try and adhere to hopefully that pays dividends because their furniture has longevity."
The store has employed hundreds of people over the decades, including about five today, some who've worked there for more than 20 years.
"When you look back and see how long it has been here, it has been an integral part of the town," Mr Swinton said.
Mr Swinton said he would be marking Saturday's anniversary in a simple way with the same dedication he and family members have shown for 155 years.
"I've got a decent delivery, that's what I will be doing," he said. "I hope that we keep operating the way we are as long as Warrnambool keeps supporting us as they are."
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.