James and Malcolm Cameron are Peninsula boys through and through. These two brothers, who were born in NSW, moved to Victoria after their dad, Barry, was ‘poached’ by Myer in 1968. The rest is Ritchies generational supermarket history.
James explains: “Dad was originally the manager of Woolworths in Double Bay then in Newcastle before coming to Melbourne, where he was given the position of supervisor for all the Myer Food Halls in Australia. Both Mal and I were still very young when we moved to the Peninsula. Dad used to tell this story of how he was trying to convince the heads of Myer to open up a supermarket in Bayside in Frankston because he could see the potential, but they wouldn’t have it. He was such a smart businessman. He brought the Target concept back from the US after studying there in 1969 too.”
But the ever-innovative Barry Cameron had bigger fish to fry than running someone else’s store. James continues: “He resigned from Myer and went into partnership with the then owner of Frankston Ritchies, Nelson Morris. That was in 1971. They went on to open Ritchies Towerhill on the corner of Golf Links and Hastings roads in 1972 before securing the Ritchies Mount Eliza store. Dad died when he was 50 and Mal, Mum – Elisabeth Cameron – Peter Carson and I were left in charge. I’ll never forget the day when Mal and I drove to Deniliquin to visit the landowner, George Demaine, to secure the lease for the Mount Eliza store. Here we were, these early-20s pimple-faced kids trying to do a deal, but we got it done.”
Both the Cameron boys have been working since they were about 10 and are committed to careers that are forged from the ground up. They also have a sister, Frances, who is not involved in the business. Malcolm and Fred Harrison are Ritchies’ longest standing employees, celebrating 45 years of service, while James is not far behind. James continues: “We grew up in Frankston South. Mal went to Frankston High and I went to Mount Eliza High. I was managing the liquor department at the Mount Eliza Ritchies by the time I was 21, had an operational sabbatical and am now a company director while Malcolm is currently chief financial officer and director. He and his wife Karen still live in Mount Eliza and I’m there at least once a week. We are still a family-run operation and many of our employees have been with us for decades. The Mount Eliza store has moved and certainly evolved since those early days but the service stays the same. There’s still plenty of opportunities for staff to rise through the ranks.”
This year marks 150 years of Ritchies supermarkets. Stay tuned for the relaunch of the Ritchies loyalty card in May and the big Mount Eliza birthday bash in September as this success story of generational business goes on.