This very matter-of-fact article announces the opening of the first major department store in Shanghai. Sincere was one of four department stores to open on Nanjing Road between the 1910s and 1930s. The others were Sun Company, Sun Sun, and Wing On. All of them were owned by Cantonese merchants who had learned about modern department stores while living in Sydney Australia. These families became very wealthy and the department stores helped to transform Chinese commerce in the 20th century. They are still there today. While the article features many fine details about the construction of the building, it is interesting and perhaps telling that no mention is made of the owners, the Ma family from Canton who made a fortune through their business.
THE SINCERE CO. OPENING OF PREMISES IN NANKING ROAD
(The North China Herald Oct 20, 1917)
The splendid departmental store of The Sincere Co., Ld., of Hongkong and Canton will be formally opened for business today. It was really open on Thursday and Friday but only for private inspection. The block which the Company has erected has frontages to Nanking, Chekiang, Kwangse and Tientsin Roads, and covers an area of more than 10.1 mow. These are roughly divided into four sections, or sub-blocks, by roadways sufficiently wide to take vehicular traffic. At the corner of the Nanking and Chekiang Roads is a tower 150 ft. high which will later contain a clock with a reinforced concrete flag pole on top 20 ft. high.
The building at the corner of Nanking and Kwangse Roads is divided internally into two, comprising the Sincere Co.’s store and the Hotel, and is the portion which is now opened; the store is four and the hotel five storeys high; this difference in the floor and window levels made it difficult to design a harmonious and fine architectural facade to the Nanking Road and it reflects great credit on the architects, Messrs. Lester, Johnson & Morriss, that such a well-balanced and accurately designed piece of architecture has been erected, a handsome acquisition to the list of fine buildings which Shanghai is gradually possessing.
The general construction is a reinforced concrete skeleton with brick and stone filling in; the roofs are flat and of reinforced concrete covered with “Pabco” roofing supplied by Messrs. A. R. Duncan & Co., who also supplied the floor and wall tiles; in the centre of the store is a large “light well” with an ornamental skylight; there are two enclosed concrete staircases to the store, one on the north and the other on the west and thus there is no possibility of people being cut off from exits in case of fire; on the north are two lifts by Messrs. Smith Major & Stevens, supplied and erected by Messrs. Scott. Harding & Co., reducing the fatigue of shopping to a minimum; on the roof are large tea pavilions whence a splendid view of Shanghai is obtained, and even of the Hills except on the dullest days. The store is the largest and most up-to-date Chinese-owned store in Shanghai at which everything from a needle to an elephant (toy) can be obtained. The ground floor has departments for grocery and provisions, wines spirits, liquors, kitchen ware, hard-household supplies, electric goods sports goods, toys, musical instruments, etc. On the third floor are the general offices of the company and the furniture department. The method of doing business will be mainly on the cash basis, but opportunity will be given to householders to run monthly accounts for the grocery and provision department with settlements prompt every month.
The hotel, on the east side of the store and entirely cut off from it by a substantial fire-wall, is proof of the growing liking of Chinese for foreign comfort and modern conveniences. The portion of the hotel now open comprises a large and handsome entrance lounge with bar, and billiard tables; a lift takes guests to the upper floors on which are situated the bed-rooms, numbering fifty-two in all; on each floor is ample lavatory accommodation and bath-rooms, fitted with foreign enamelled baths with hot and cold water laid on, while each bed-room has a porcelain wash-basin with hot and cold water, and is heated with a radiator. When the second portion of the premises are opened the bedroom accommodation will be doubled.
A novel feature of the whole of the premises is that every portion is connected at various levels and at the roofs, which are all flat, by concrete bridges which preclude any possibility of people being cut off in case of fire. The general external style of the premises is a free English Rennaisance, the walls being faced with blue Ningpo stone to the first floor level and with granite chip cement above carried out by Japanese ; the columns, cornices and dressings being of patent stone.
All the premises are fitted with fire hydrants, pumps and modern fire appliances, this work together with the heating, hot and cold water supplies and lavatory arrangements being executed by the Shanghai Waterworks Co.