Copland & Lye
Messrs. Copland & Lye, Drapers, Caledonian House, 65 and 167, Sauchiehall Street.—
The mere name of Glasgow at once suggests to the British mind thoughts and ideas of commercial progress in its highest forms ; and yet, even in Glasgow, the rapid rise and development of the great business of Messrs. Copland & Lye, controlling the famous Caledonian House in Sauchiehall Street, are exceptional, almost unique. The history of this notable firm dates from the year 1873, at which time it was founded in Cowcaddens by the two gentlemen whose individual names are indicated in its title, and commenced operations with a staff of about twenty assistants. In five years the most remarkable advancement was achieved, and in 1878 the firm removed into their present premises in Sauchiehall Street, the new Caledonian House — a commercial establishment second to none in the kingdom in point of perfect interior arrangement and handsome architectural proportions.
Thus magnificently housed, the business has pursued its forward course, always increasing in scope and developing in resource ; and the relative magnitude to which it has attained in an existence of fifteen years is exemplified in the fact that the staff of employees to-day numbers close upon four hundred, and that something over £15,000 is annually disbursed in salaries alone. The original style of the house — Copland & Lye — is still retained, though the sole principal is now Mr. John Lye, Mr. William Copland, with whom he established the business in 1873, having been deceased since November, 1884. The vigorous personality of Mr. Lye has always shown, strongly apparent, through all the undertakings of the house, and Glasgow can show of recent years no more satisfactory instance of a successful and well-directed commercial coalition than his partnership for eleven years with the late Mr. Copland.
Mr. Lye, himself, is a native of Hungerford, Berkshire, in which town his father was a well-known and highly-respected draper. The first portion of his business career was accomplished at Hastings, and he subsequently came to Glasgow as an assistant to Mr. John Anderson, of the Royal Polytechnic, with whose mammoth business he remained connected for upwards of thirteen years in the capacity of manager. Here he gained much of that broad and valuable experience which he turned to such excellent account afterwards in his partnership with Mr. Copland. Shortly after the death of the latter gentleman, Mr. Lye took over the whole of his deceased partner’s interest in the business, and has since guided the fortunes of the concern with his own capable and experienced hand. His term of sole proprietorship has been marked by a continuity of the progress which seems characteristic of the house, and has brought the Caledonian House more than ever to the front among the great mercantile institutions of the kingdom.
Mr. Lye’s unquestionable commercial capacity, as evidenced in his administration of the business, his refined and artistic tastes, as exemplified in his beautiful country-seat at Gourock, with its gardens, conservatories and picture galleries ; and also at his present residence near Glasgow, until recently the residence of the Earl of Glasgow, a fine old ancestral hall with between 4,000 and 5,000 acres of ground, Mr. Lye’s taste for horticulture come in, he having built a fine range of greenhouses, converting what was a vacant plot of ground into a beautiful flower-garden ; and his sound sense of justice and benevolence, as shown forth in his impartial and considerate dealings with his numerous employees, are, one and all, personal qualities which bring him forward, no less prominently and creditably than his house, among the merchants of a city of great achievements and notable men.
As to the business itself, it is impossible of description with anything approaching to adequacy within the brief limits of this necessarily concise sketch. The Caledonian House is essentially a drapery warehouse of the first class, both in magnitude and character, and within its spacious confines every branch of that important line of commerce is fully exemplified. The business is retail in nature, and is conducted upon the distinct departmental system, the principal sections in a stock of remarkable range, volume, variety and value being silks, laces, velvets, dress goods, household linens, mantles, gloves, millinery, and costumes.
In addition to these, the comprehensive feature of house furnishing has been well developed, a large trade being done in this respect ; and in connection therewith the firm show some very superior stocks in carpets and curtains, upholstery, and cabinet furniture. A number of cabinet-makers and upholsterers are employed on the premises in manufacturing operations.
Dressmaking is a speciality at the Caledonian House, and a splendid reputation is enjoyed for the excellence of the work produced by a skilled and highly-experienced staff of French, Scotch, and English artistes. All the latest styles and newest fashions of Paris and London in millinery, dresses, and costumes are reproduced here with perfect fidelity ; and the lady patrons of the house are never more than a day or two behind their sisters in the great metropolis of the “gay city”, in their possession of the most recent mode whose advent has been heralded in either of these two centres of fashion.
But the stocks of the Caledonian House are quite beyond our limited capacity of portrayal in these brief pages, and must be left with a parting pro-nunciamento upon their completeness, their attractive character, and their thoroughly comprehensive variety. In the maintenance of a proper and most admirable system of order and good condition throughout his extensive establishment, Mr. Lye has the able assistance of his four sons, John Lye, George, James, and Harry ; together with that of numerous departmental managers, and the conscientious efforts of every member of a capable and efficient staff.
The new warehouse — for it is only ten years old — in Sauchiehall Street is a superb structure in the Italian style, handsomely and symmetrically proportioned in all details and generalities, and presenting a most imposing appearance, as it stands on its fine corner site, and dominates with its bold and striking frontage and lofty clock-tower the stately prospect of the “Bond Street of Glasgow”. The whole arrangement of the interior of this noble warehouse is of the most complete and perfect character ; and, viewed externally, the edifice makes good its title at once to a place among the architectural attractions of commercial Glasgow. Over the main entrance, in Sauchiehall Street, is prominently noticeable the motto of the house, Deus Nobiscum. In those two simple and familiar, yet expressive words, is embodied an abstract of the spirit of staunch and fearless integrity, honour, and unswerving rectitude which has guided this, one of Glasgow’s most notable mercantile emporiums, swiftly and steadily along the path of progress and prosperity.
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