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In Pictures: Do you remember iconic Dundee department store Draffens?

Danielle Gaffar, left, and the injury, right.
Danielle Gaffar, left, and the injury, right.

In times gone by, department stores were immense sites of commerce that allowed individuals to shop, dine and socialise – all under one roof.

However, with the rise of internet shopping, click-and-collect services and high street stores, these magnificent retailers have all but disappeared from our towns and cities.

Once occupying a dominant spot in Dundee city centre, Draffens was an iconic shopping institution that welcomed visitors from around the country.


In his book, Counter Revolutionaries, local author Jack Searle describes how the business was established in 1834 by owners William Moon and John Langlands.

Author Jack Searle is pictured with his book.

Following a series of changes in ownership the company, which by this point was located on the corner of Whitehall Street and Nethergate, was then taken over by George Draffen and John Jarvie in 1889.

The cosmetics, jewellery and bag areas of Debenhams department store on Whitehall Street and Nethergate.

It was this switch which is said to have led to the store “really” taking off, according to Mr Searle. The pair made significant changes to the way the business operated, prioritising looking after the existing staff and making sure it was at the frontline for fashion in the city.


In the years that followed Draffens continued to innovate, introducing Christmas shows, electric lighting, an elevator and a new lounge. The need to adapt and reinvent was as important as ever, particularly in the first part of the 20th Century as new department stores began to emerge across the city.

The exterior of Draffens in March 1981.

The introduction of a restaurant on the store’s top floor proved a hit with the middle class women of Dundee, as did the decision to broadcast the BBC’s musical programmes in their lounge and tea rooms.

Santa posing with some of the young children at Draffens in 1978.

However, as the century progressed, the firm struggled to maintain its once prominent position in the city’s shopping scene.

Mr Draffen’s sons, William Stirling Draffen and John Jarvie Draffen, had taken over from their father in the early 1930’s and, following their deaths in 1949 and 1958, the business began to struggle financially resulting in a number of shares being sold.

It later merged with esteemed drapers and clothiers, Smith Brothers. Draffens continued to trade until the early 1980s, before being reborn as a branch of Debenhams.

The Debenhams store in 1999.

So, what’s next for the old Draffens building?

In December, we reported that plans for a three-floor Asian restaurant and whisky bar on the second, third and fourth floors of the former Draffens department store had been approved.

Local hospitality firm Macmerry 300 Ltd was given the green light to open North East, which will serve up Asian-inspired dishes and sell Scottish and Asian whiskies to be consumed off the premises.

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.