Iconic Maitland business Ken Lane Menswear is celebrating 70 years in May

SHARP DRESSED MAN: Patrick Lane at the family business which started in 1948. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.
SHARP DRESSED MAN: Patrick Lane at the family business which started in 1948. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

When iconic Maitland business Ken Lane opened on May 10, 1948 it sold  surplus army goods, bed linen and blankets.

The store has dressed four generations of Maitland folk, survived the 60s sexual revolution, the 1955 flood and 1989 earthquake and the controversial construction of The Levee and its predecessor The Heritage Mall.

Next month the business will celebrate 70 years of trade from the same site, one of only a handful of establishments that have stood the test of time along the old High Street shopping strip.

Ken Lane and his wife Jessie opened the store, with son John taking over in 1968 and now grandson Patrick at the helm.

During those 70 years staff and customers have shared laughter, tears and enough stories to roll out a TV mini-series.

Patrick said one of the most memorable moments was when an elderly woman hired a suit for her husband. “She gave us his measurements and we sent her home with a black hire suit,” Patrick said. “A couple of weeks later we noticed the suit had not been returned. When we contacted the customer she told us there was no way she could return it because her husband was buried in it last week.”

In its early days the business grew rapidly as Maitland experienced the post war baby boom. People had gone without many basic items during the war and demand increased as the local economy grew with men and women returning to their farms and pre-war lives.

In 1970 Ken Lane opened The Jeanery in an adjoining shop. This came at a time when the mini-skirt, denim and surf culture had emerged. John saw the change in trend, nagging Ken about selling younger fashions. The Jeanery became an instant success, however as shopping centres and chain stores grew, the number of people shopping in Maitland diminished and The Jeanery closed early 2000.

“I still get customers coming in who shopped with my grandfather. We also have third and fourth generation customers and these are the people responsible for our success and longevity,” Patrick said.