The Owen Owen department store in Southampton had a long and interesting history, stretching from its origins as another business to its eventual closure. 

The building at 174 High Street, Southampton, housed a drapery and mercer business called Cooks and Mayes from 1830 to 1855.

In 1855, the name changed to Mayes and the business expanded to occupy multiple storefronts on High Street.

Unfortunately, like many Southampton buildings, it was destroyed during the Second World War.

In 1947, the Owen Owen company, established in 1868 in Liverpool, acquired the bombed-out site on High Street.

Daily Echo: Decorations for the Queens coronation at Mayes store, Southampton. 30th May 1953. THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. Ref - 4674a

They rebuilt the premises and opened a new Owen Owen department store.

The Southampton branch served the community for nearly 40 years, offering a wide range of goods, similar to other Owen Owen stores across the UK.

Footfall through the building was large but not just by shoppers. Owen Owen functioned as a convenient shortcut for pedestrians travelling between Castle Way and High Street.

In 1994, the Owen Owen chain faced challenges and began closing stores.

The Southampton branch ultimately shut down, marking the end of an era for the department store in the city.

Daily Echo: The opening of Mayes, a department store that later became known as Owen Owen. This is now a mixture of shops. October 5, 2012. Then and Now.THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. HAMPSHIRE HERITAGE SUPPLEMENT. Ref: 8195

While the Owen Owen store is no longer in operation, its history remains a part of Southampton's commercial landscape and is remembered fondly by many.

Shirley Wilkinson wrote on the We Grew Up In Southampton Facebook group: "I remember this store when it was Mayes too. My Mum took me to see Father Xmas."

 Heather Grainger replied: "We went every year late 50s early 60s."

Carol Gray said: "I used to work in the Cash Office for a while and as a kid would have photos taken with Santa….it was the place to go! Great store…loved it!"

But it wasn't just Santa that people had a recollection of, the rolls from the store's Flowerpots Cafe also caused quite a stir.

Daily Echo: Heritage. Fifteen choir boys decoration on Mayes canopy Christmas 3/12/59

"They used to do great Jumbo Salad Rolls to take away!" commented Mike Bunday.

Sue Roberts replied: "They really did, it doesn't matter how much I try I have never been able to recreate how they tasted. Delicious."

" I remember taking orders on a Friday and going up to get them all for everyone …they were amazing….never been matched in my eyes!" Said Carol Gray.

Jenni Wendy Clarke responded: "I was just going to say that. I was 16 and daft enough to queue for about 20 minutes in my lunch break to order everybody’s jumbo roll. 10 minutes back to work, about another 15 minutes of my lunch break to eat it. Talk about young and not having the nerve to say 'can you add 30 minutes of time for my lunch.'"

But Owen Owen isn't just remembered for Santa or their delectable roles - numerous people also recollect the wigs on display.

Daily Echo: Iain Turner in Father Christmas outfit in Owen Owen. 17th December 1976. THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. HAMPSHIRE HERITAGE SUPPLEMENT. Ref:5605f

"I remember a small stand just inside the front doors that sold wigs and hairpieces. Always fascinated by it but never did have the nerve to try any on!" said Christine Richards.

However, Heidi Horn clearly wasn't so timid: "We used to get in trouble for trying the wigs on."

Brian Chivers was among those who worked there.

"My first ever Saturday job, in the do-it-yourself department. A great grounding in life, coping with awkward customers and enjoying the thank you’s from happy customers. A great adventure with happy memories, missing the canteen on the top floor, it all looks a bit sad now," wrote Brian.

Richard Gane commented: "My mother used to work in the snack bar in the late sixties up on the top floor."

"My aunty worked in the restaurant on the top floor, mum and dad used to take us up there for a treat and we could see all the liners in the docks, happy memories," wrote Ann Cole.

Daily Echo: Hair Fashion Show at Owen Owen. 29th Oct 1969. © THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES.  Ref - 3009e

Dawn Campbell posted: "My Mum worked there many years in the haberdashery department."

"So did my mum!" Terri Gardner responded. "Down in the basement area. Her dept manager was Mac. This was around 1968. She then moved to Tyrell & Green. full-time on the nets. We were old enough by then to come home from school get the dinner started."

Mayes was also well known for its music section where patrons could listen to the latest pop songs.

"When it was still Mayes I bought my first records there, they used to have those little booths where you could listen to the latest releases," commented Mike Schillabeer.  

Eric Goddard "always used to have a look through their record section for bargains ....not always intentional ones as well. Picked up Yessongs triple Lp which even in mid-70s was a whopping £6.99 , which was incorrectly labelled at £1.99 and not queried  

Daily Echo: A Southern Daily Echo advert from August 1961 for television sets and electricals on display during the 1961-1962 Radio And Television Exhibition at Mayes store in Southampton. For Hampshire Heritage. Southern Daily Echo Archives.

Other interesting anecdotes shared include:

  • Bumping into home ec teacher in there during the holidays!! Particularly weird as I was at school in Devon and she lived in Exeter. Maria Marie
  • I remember it as Mayes, with a function room at the top where we went to company dinner dances. Early 60s! Thought we were very sophisticated!  Viv Butler
  • I once saw a woman eat a hamburger with a knife and fork in a restaurant and thought she was really posh. Jim Chorley
  • The restaurant on the top floor. You could look out over the ships in the docks and the heliport.  Alastair Condie
  • That's where I sneaked off to get my ears pierced.. Twice. Julie Butt
  • Bought a skirt for work from Wallis there with one of my first pay packets. Pricey, so must have been in the sale! Debbie Parks

Daily Echo: Owen Owen selling bunches of daffodils for 1p. 27th Mar 1976. ? THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES.  Ref  3460f

  • Like many others I also remember their fantastic Rolls which I’d often buy for lunch when I worked for an insurance company in the High Street. I also remember going as a boy with my mum and having a delicious knickerbocker glory in the restaurant on the restaurant on the top floor. Nigel Compton
  • We loved Owen Owen it was a fabulous store. We bought lots of furniture from them over the years.  Nicola Chambers
  • My mum used to take us there to buy my dad's white y-fronts. What a memory, ha ha. Jen Forgetmenot
  • I worked there when it was Mayes 1958, in cash dept. I was also a hairdresser model so my hair style changed quite a few times. Doreen Watts.
  • The building still stands on High Street, though it now houses different businesses.
  • Some residents might still reminisce about shopping there, adding to the store's legacy in the city's collective memory.