Taylor Square Newsagency Closes

My earliest memory of the Sydney’s Taylor Square Newsagency was when they had a “footpath sub-branch” outside The Oxford Hotel. As a young man from the country, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the large collection of international newspapers and “adult magazines” they sold. And yes, in my younger years, I may have bought some of both. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was still a magazine buyer. And so when I came to Sydney, I liked nothing more than “stocking up” ahead of a return to life in the country.

By the time I’d moved to Sydney in the mid 90s, I’m pretty sure they no longer had the “footpath sub-branch”. Instead, the Taylor Square Newsagency had a fairly healthy floor space on the opposite side of the road, and they had an amazing collection of magazines. Back then I was still buying “fashion magazines” and “gay magazines” and things like “The Face”. Yes, really.

A few years later I was buying cooking magazines and computer magazines. And then it was family history magazines. More recently, I was using the Taylor Square Newsagency for art magazines, the only magazines I still buy in the physical form.

Along the way, I popped in to the newsagency for the occasional Lotto ticket, and memorably to buy some early morning newspapers. There was a New Years Day when I presented the Breakfast Show on ABC Radio, and, since the newspaper deliveries to work didn’t occur early enough, stopped in there to pick them up on the way to work. So I caught a cab from home, via the Taylor Square Newsagency. As I wrote at the time

“I want to go to Ultimo, but I need to go via the Taylor Square newsagency to pick up some newspapers on the way”, I told him. In scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood movie, forty-or-fifty people descended on the taxi as we pulled in at Taylor Square. You could see the look of desperation in their eyes, and then disappointment as they soon realised the taxi wasn’t free. Feeling a bit sorry for the taxi driver and the “siege situation” I’d dragged him into, I promised him I’d run in and out as quickly as possible. As I ran in, I noticed there were queues everywhere on Oxford Street, even apparently at the sex shop next to the newsagency.

On Monday morning, I checked in with my colleagues to see if they still called in to pick up the early morning papers. “No, we do everything online”, they told me. And I guess that’s the issue for the Taylor Square Newsagency: life has changed. They probably should have downsized their floor-space, as others have, as the newspaper/magazine industry has changed. There again, there’s also the issue of how Oxford Street has changed since the arrival of the 1.30am lockout, which, undoubtedly has indirectly contributed to things. I hear “The Oxford” is about to close also for a few months, and then “turn straight”. Life really has changed since the late 80s, early 90s, eh?

I was actually a little sad when I walked past the newsagency late on Sunday night and noticed they had closed. A friend told me she and a friend had the same reaction. “He got really teary”, she told me. “Where am I gonna buy Italian Vogue from now”, he asked. :)

It must be even sadder for the family which has owned the newsagency since the 1930s.

  1. Rather sad but inevitable I guess. Maybe they owned they place but generally it can be said ‘it woz the rents what dun us in’.

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  2. As an update, I shared this story on Twitter, and it was re-tweeted by Mark Colvin, resulting in a bunch of comments tonight. I’m sure there’ll be more, but here are some of them.

    Chris ‏@homeister
    @Colvinius @JamesOBrienAU – I’m thinking there is now NO late night/allnight newso in Sydney. World City – NOT

    Dom Knight ‏@domknight
    @salmonmornay @Colvinius oh that is devastating news. Used to go there to excitedly buy our newspaper.

    Simon Marnie ‏@salmonmornay
    @domknight @Colvinius last Saturday was my first time not buying a paper from them. Oxford Street at 5am Saturday now resembles Good Friday.

    Simon Marnie ‏@salmonmornay
    @JamesOBrienAU I’ve been there most Saturday’s round 5am for 15 yrs. Sad to watch it shrink, fade & now close. They blame the lockout laws.

    Shaun Davies Retweeted James O’Brien
    I used to do the late-night dash here to pick up first editions of Sunday Tele as a scared copy kid.

    Stephen Murray ‏@smurray38
    Yes, it’s a newsagency, but by God, I’ll miss it

    Christopher Brereton ‏@chrisbrereton
    No more early edition at the courthouse @sjbadco

    Ian Parry-Okeden ‏@IanParryO
    @JamesOBrienAU @jc_cummins Sda. Central to the birth of Media Monitors. So many mornings picking up papers at 1am and a packet of Camels

    Sven-Erik Wallin ‏@ridgiedidge
    @Colvinius @JamesOBrienAU The footpath agency is where I went in 1968 to buy the paper for my HSC results

    Stella Orbit ‏@stellaorbit
    @Colvinius @JamesOBrienAU isn’t this where we cod buy papers during the night? On the way home.

    Mark Colvin ‏@Colvinius
    A lot of memories die when an industry dies.

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  3. The lock out laws may not have helped their bottom line but I find it difficult to accept the laws as a principle cause for their closure. That whole area seems to me to be a shadow of how it thrived when it was a centre for the gay community.

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    1. Agreed Victor. I was chatting with a colleague the other day, and his argument was they had an out-dated business model, but it was the lockout which added to their problem. And yes, this coment above sums up Oxford Street with the exception of Friday and Saturday nights.

      Simon Marnie ‏@salmonmornay
      @domknight @Colvinius last Saturday was my first time not buying a paper from them. Oxford Street at 5am Saturday now resembles Good Friday.

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  4. Have received some further comments on social media (Google+) which I thought I’d share/aggregate here.

    Viscount Anthony Fuller
    I remember the wooden stands outside The Oxford. They sold papers (and other ‘publications’) all night and the passing vehicles made up a great deal of their patronage.

    Andrew W (pdxauboi)
    What a lovely post. So true. I hope the oxford won’t turn straight. The shift did then lost a lot of customers for several months including me. Now I do go back but not that much. Isn’t it heartbreaking that the bars are closing. Not because they want to but because the sex apps have stopped people socialising. In the end we loose out because people these days do not know how to communicate. So sad.

    James O’Brien
    Things change, of course, and if we resist/fight change we would still have blacksmiths on Oxford Street. Clearly, the business model for newsagents, as for records shops, video shops (and maybe gay bars +Andrew W) has changed, but it’s still sad when something which has been such an institution disappears. In country towns, these days, just about every shopping centre is identical with the same chain stores, and while that’s good in some ways (equal access to good brands), it’s also a little sad.

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