Monday, September 29, 2008

Of Hypnotists, and Chimpanzees

One of the puzzles every retailer faces at some time or other while they are in business is – how do I attract the customers? Where early butchers in Avondale would simply put a pig’s head in the window to advertise their wares, or as in the case of Watson’s Chemist decorate the front window with Ranfurly Shield paraphernalia, there have been others who took things to the next level.

Take Lawrence “Larry” Tierney, for example. From just after World War I, he ran a billiard saloon and barber shop at the corner of what is now Crayford Street and Great North Road. After local rivals opened their barber shops in 1923 and 1932, Mr Tierney may have felt the need to boost business. One day, inquisitive school children found to their delight and wonder – a man asleep in the window of Tierney’s barber shop, hypnotised by a visiting practitioner of the art, covered only with a cloth. Good enough to stick in the memories of a few of our local identities, and maybe good enough for business.

In the 1960s came Chimpanzee Week, at Stuart North’s Avondale Paints and Paper Ltd. To quote from Heart of the Whau:

“One of his more famous promotional campaigns involved a family of three chimpanzees owned by a Mr Alan Horobin, arranged through Dulux Paints. The father chimp did painting in the store during the week-long promotion holding a brush with a hind leg, or in the mouth. Local children from the school were so keen to see the chimps that the teachers had trouble controlling them”
A local television show of the time even took the chimps’ paintings and showed them to passers-by in Albert Park as a stunt. None seeing the paintings had the slightest idea that they were the work of ‘amateurs in the field’.

I wonder what the Avondale retailers of today will come up with?

First published in Spider's Web, August 2001

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