[11.18 a.m.] Ms ARMITAGE - Mr President, I speak today about an icon in my city, one which is still proudly selling men's clothing as well as being a long-serving café to its many customers.
Neil Pitt's Menswear was opened in Charles Street, Launceston, in 1949 by Neil and his brother Don. After 21 years, in 1970, the brothers bought the old Majestic Theatre on Brisbane Street and converted it to a men's retail outlet, complete with a mezzanine café. The Majestic Theatre was Launceston's first purpose-built cinematic theatre and it was a huge historic theatre at the heart of Launceston's arts community. It was owned by Greek entrepreneur Marino Lucas.
It was constructed in 1917 at a cost of £18 000 and opened on June 2 the same year. The frontage of the building was 72 feet wide while the Brisbane Street entrance was 25 feet wide. The Majestic Theatre closed on 26 February 1970. The final film it screened was Sweet Charity, starring Shirley MacLaine. In the now-converted theatre, the former dress circle foyer is a workroom while the auditorium is a storeroom. The intricate ceiling remains intact as do details of the interesting upstairs space. A contrast exists between the racks of men's clothing and the grandeur of a bygone theatrical era, reminiscent of the grandeur of the cinematic tradition of the past.
An original 1929 projector from the theatre's heyday is on display in the store. Launceston cinema historian, John Healey, said that the most impressive aspects of the Majestic were its ceilings and marble staircase. At 86, Don Pitt still manages the shop and is probably one of the world's most experienced retailers. His menswear business has mostly escaped the fashion buyers' transition online, as suit buying requires one-on-one customer service for fittings.
Don says his business formula has barely altered in 70 years of trading because classical fashions remain popular and customers are still attracted to good old-fashioned service. His main challenge is the rising cost of doing business, with increasing utility costs, taxes and others fees which have to be absorbed. Ensuring the involvement of younger family members and the fact that it has continued to trade are truly testament to the quality of the business. William Pitt has been at Neil Pitts since 1993. Andrew Pitt returned to Launceston in 2009 to learn the family business. He has become firmly embedded in Launceston, having joined the boards of both the Launceston Chamber of Commerce and Cityprom in 2014, and the board of the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival; he was instrumental in establishing the Welcome Dinner Project in Tasmania. He has recently consulted for the University of Tasmania on how the northern transformation should work towards making Launceston a real university city.
Neil Pitt's is still one of Australia's best menswear stores with an exceptionally large range of quality products in a wide variety of menswear lines. The service they provide is personal and relaxed. Their staff are true professionals with extensive experience in menswear. They specialise in suits, with one of the biggest ranges in Tasmania. They have a formal suit hire service and also have a large range of big men's clothing available. The coffee shop is rumoured to have the best scones in the state, baked fresh every morning.
The continuity and endeavour that has seen this business survive is a true testament to the belief that good service and quality products are all-enduring and are very symbolic of the business heartland of Launceston. Well done, Neil Pitts, and may you continue operating for many years to come