Do you remember getting a cake from the City Bakeries?

Did you buy sweets from Birrell’s, or an ice cream from Ross’s Dairies? What about fresh fruit from Lipton’s or Malcolm Campbell’s?

Although these shops have now disappeared from Glasgow’s streets, they were once common sights in the city.

Photographs of shop fronts are among our most popular posts on our Facebook page. Many come from an amazing series generated by the Glasgow Corporation City Assessor’s Department during the 1920s and 1930s.

Some capture the Art Deco style which characterised architecture and design during this period. Others showcase elaborate window displays designed under the window dresser’s creative eye. And many spark memories of visits to these former shopping titans of Glasgow’s streets.

Look beyond the window displays and focus on the businesses themselves, you discover just how many well-known retail empires had their roots in Glasgow.

Birrells 1939 Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Birrell's 1939 Pic: Glasgow City Archives

For example, Malcolm Campbell (b. 1848) began his career in a greengrocer’s based in Gordon Street. He bought the business from his former employer in 1878, changed the name and built it up until it became a Scottish chain of grocery, fruit and vegetable shops. Its records are now held by the University of Glasgow’s Archives and Special Collections.

Thomas Lipton (also born in 1848) also made his grocery business flourish in Glasgow and beyond. From a single shop in Stobcross Street, Lipton’s grew and expanded until it became a UK chain.

Later specialising in tea, the business was eventually taken over by Unilever which holds the Lipton business archives. Lipton’s personal photographs, news cuttings and memorabilia are held by the Special Collections department of the Mitchell Library.

Liptons 1936 Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Lipton's 1936 Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Ross’s Dairies (“It’s Ross’s, It’s Right”) had its depot on Crow Road and a variety of outlets throughout the city. These included milk bars, snack bars and large tea rooms at the corner of Howard and Jamaica Streets and proclaimed their produce was “straight from the oven, straight from the farm” including their delicious soda scones.

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We hold the business records of Ross’s Dairies Ltd and several beautiful photos of City Bakeries premises on Dumbarton Road and Cumberland Street. (My aunt worked, in both the Shafton and Bearsden Road branches, during the late 1950s). Sadly, the chain’s archives did not survive when it was bought over by Greggs.

All of these businesses – and more – formed such an important part of the cityscape during the twentieth century.

While they may be gone, they’re not forgotten and their archives play an important part in documenting the commercial history of Glasgow.