J Mann and Sons opened as a produce store in February 1921. Brothers Ernest and Robert Mann, themselves. built a 50ft by 30ft concrete store between Gordes’ shoe store and Moulder’s saddlery. After a short while Robert left the business and C. J. Bray went into partnership with Ernest. After three years C. J. Bray decided there was no future for business in Wodonga leaving Mr Mann as sole proprietor.
In 1924 a 60ft by 20ft bulk store was erected at the rear of the store and staff increased to four.
The business survived the Depression whilst others crashed. By 1934 there were seven staff members and Mr Mann extended the range of goods he sold. He was the first in Wodonga to sell petroleum products with a petrol bowser being installed at the front of the store in Sydney Street (now High Street) at a cost of £300. At that time, petrol was imported from America in four-gallon tins and the petrol fed into the storage tank by funnel, one tin at a time.
They increased their range further to include iron, wire and fencing materials, then building supplies. Mann’s as it became known were the first to purchase a truck for country deliveries which extended to Granya, the Kiewa Valley, Yackandandah. Deliveries were discontinued during the war years because of petrol rationing and shortage of manpower.
After the end of the war in 1945 further extensions were made to the premises and In 1947 Ernest was joined by his son David and another son John five years later.
At their 40th anniversary T. W. Mitchell MLA was quoted as saying “Mr Jonathan Mann had demonstrated the pioneer spirit and family trust by setting up his sons in a new venture when they wanted to leave the farm. And the sons had indicated their gratitude by giving the father’s name to the business. “
In 1962 Mann’s opened their new supermarket with special guest, TV personality Evie Hayes, who also went and entertained patients at the Wodonga Hospital on the day.
Last week saw the opening of Mann Central, a major retail complex on the site of the original store, so the name will live on.