Elys opened its doors in 1876 as a small tailor, outfitter and drapery seller. Founder, Joseph Ely, had left Essex aged 16 to walk to London in search of prosperity and opened the store after gaining experience in the retail trade.
After testing the potential for custom by counting the number of people who passed the corner each hour, Joseph decided to build on Alexandra Road at the bottom of Wimbledon Hill, certain that the shops position would bring business.
After 10 years of successful trading as Wimbledon’s first department store, Joseph moved to larger premises across the road to the corner of Worple Road, where the store still stands today.
The introduction of the tram to Wimbledon in 1907 saw the stores real success, bringing in custom from New Malden and Raynes Park. Joseph even persuaded conductors to shout ‘Elys corner!’ before the tram stopped outside the store.
Joseph died in 1910 and crowds gathered on the corner of Worple Road to watch the funeral procession. By the 1920s it was Josephs son, Bernard, who was almost solely running the store and by its 50th anniversary in 1926 business had flourished. Elys became a Limited company during the year of its 60th anniversary and raised enough money from shareholders to put up a new shop front.
After Bernard’s death in 1957, his son took over management and business continued to grow, but a fire in the furniture warehouse in Gap Road destroyed hundreds of customer goods. Elys expanded into adjoining vacant properties in the 60s and the store had a major rebuild.
Morleys Stores Group acquired Elys in 1996; the store underwent a major refurbishment and introduced top end brands with the aim of attracting new types of shoppers. Today, Elys remains Wimbledon’s fashionable department store, and has won a place in the hearts of shoppers and developed a reputation for first class service.