120 Years of Success – A.S. Cooper’s and Sons Ltd
By Brigitta Wohlmuth
This year, A.S. Cooper’s and Sons Ltd. celebrates 120 years in business – making them one of the oldest retailers in Bermuda still going strong. As I chat with managing director Somers Cooper, the great grandson of AS Cooper himself, I learn just how much this monumental department store has evolved throughout the decades. It all started back in 1897 when Alexander Samuel Cooper purchased the deeds to the Bermuda Furnishing and Supply Company, owned by Mr. Musson Wainwright who was Alexander’s employer for a number of years. Located further up along the road at 45 Front Street, it was originally just a general goods store that sold everything under the sun from onion seeds to mosquito nets – but Alexander had a love of finer things, and converted the store into a treasure trove full of the world’s finest china, crystal, and antique silver.
“Wedgwood china was the first big brand that my great grandfather secured,” Somers tells me. With the birth of Bermuda Tourism in the 1930s these sorts of luxury goods were extremely desirable to North American tourists, who came to Bermuda not only for holiday but to purchase well-priced British and European brands. “We are the exclusive retailers of Wedgwood in Bermuda, and were actually the first customers in the Western Hemisphere for Wedgwood China,” he continues to explain as he shows me a series of photo memorabilia. First an old family album full of black and white photos of Alexander and his five sons, “In the 50s is when the sons started to get involved, that’s when we got more into men’s and ladies fashion and it kind of developed from there,” says Somers. He then shows me some early catalogues of the stores wares in the 60s and 70s, as well as photos of the store when it first opened at its current location. At that time, Cooper’s was one of three of the biggest department stores on the Island, and to keep up with the neighbouring competition they made every effort to ensure the new store was state of the art. “This building was bought in the 70s and they re-did it so that it went from street to street. The old store only went half-way back, so that was a big deal.” International shop designers were involved in the refurbishment of the building, light fixtures were brought in from England and they even installed the first escalators ever in Bermuda!
It’s clear that Cooper’s has always done the most to keep up with the times. In 2005, they made the decision to renovate their building at 59 Front Street and within the decade the business has grown even further to include many new brands, branches and amenities; including a new on-site spa, a terrace café, a premier jewellery store, a newly opened Vineyard Vines store at 27 Front Street and the official store of the America’s Cup in the recently renovated Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club. Today they continue to be the number one choice for the most discerning shoppers, boasting six store locations across the Island where you can purchase leading designer brands from around the globe at duty-free prices, as well as the best Bermudian brands like Lili Bermuda, TABS, Alexandra Mosher, Barbara Finsness, and Picturesque.