Darrell Lea in King Street

king street

This week the Past Present is looking at an iconic place in Sydney’s history, and one which is associated with something many of us love – confectionary. The intersection featured in the image above is that of King and George Streets, in the heart of Sydney. This is, of course, the place where the famous Darrell Lea store once stood.

Harris Levy was born in 1876 in London and was the son of a boot maker. When he was 12, the family emigrated to Australia and Levy took a job rolling cigars in Western Australia. This wasn’t the life Harry was looking for though and his parents paid for him to learn to make confectionary. Then, in 1905 Levy married Esther Goldman. In 1916 the couple and their growing family made their way to Sydney where they opened a fruit store in Manly, on The Corso. In winter, the fruit trade was slow, so Levy began to make toffees to supplement the fruit trade. The confectionary was incredibly successful and in 1924 Levy opened a small milk bar and confectionary shop in Castlereagh Street, making his products in the rear of the shop. Then in 1930, with Depression era rents being so low, Levy was able to take over a shirt shop in Pitt Street, transforming it into a confectionary shop. Levy changed his name to Lea and called named the company after his youngest son, Darrell. Darrell Lea was born.

A confectionary company may seem at odds with the shortages of the Depression, but Darrell Lea made a decision to sell at half the price of their competitors, making chocolate, which had been a luxury item, more affordable. Low prices led to a huge turnover of product, so the confectionary had a reputation for always being fresh and high quality. Soon enough the company became a huge success and more stores began to be opened, including a Melbourne store which was established in 1940. The most famous store though stood at the juncture of King and George Streets. Harry Levy died in 1957.

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