Joseph Willis and R.S. McKenzie meet on a train and decide to go into business together as ‘Land, Estate, Insurance and General Commission Agents’.
The first McKenzie & Willis advertisement appears in The Press promoting their first premises at 163 Hereford Street ‘nearly opposite Bank of New Zealand going East’.
McKenzie & Willis expand, holding ‘regular sales of furniture and general merchandise’. This expansion saw the need for a larger premises with the duo signing a 15 year lease and moving to the Royal Exchange Building in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square.
The partnership between Willis and McKenzie dissolves. McKenzie & Willis was purchased outright by Joseph Willis, with the now well-established name, continuing.
McKenzie & Willis purchases the Queens Theatre in Hereford Street, Christchurch and undertook extensive alterations before reopening the doors in June. Over the next 6 years further renovations were completed, including adding another storey to the building, which saw the collection to expand and fill all four floors, adding flooring, home appliances, curtains and blinds to the existing furniture collection.
The model home display concept was introduced. The ‘Showroom Bungalow’ allowed customers to see furniture and furnishings displayed as they would be in their own homes, enhancing the appearance of the items for sale and keeping customers up to date with the latest trends.
1950s, 60s & 70s
McKenzie & Willis embraced a real department store feel with a vast product range that included everything we are known for today as well as televisions, electronics, records and whiteware to name a few.
The first official branch of McKenzie & Willis opens in Timaru.
McKenzie & Willis acquires Christchurch furnishings retailer, AJ Whites and moves into what became their iconic Christchurch showroom, on the corner of Tuam and High Streets.
McKenzie & Willis expands further into the South Island through strategic partnerships, opening in Gore in 1992 and Dunedin in 1996. The Gore partnership went on to open outposts in Queenstown and Wanaka.
McKenzie & Willis exits the partnership model in favour of full ownership, purchasing outright the Dunedin, Queenstown and Wanaka showrooms, and exiting Gore. They then went on to relaunch brand new design stores in these markets.
Following the Christchurch Earthquake the flagship building was damaged beyond repair however, efforts made soon after meant the historic facade was able to be saved and restored. McKenzie & Willis Christchurch relocated to their current home at 181 Blenheim Road.
McKenzie & Willis design store opens in Wellington.
The newly refurbished flagship McKenzie & Willis showroom in Christchurch opens.
McKenzie & Willis acquires North Island design retailer, The Design Depot. Their showrooms in Hamilton and Mount Maunganui officially relaunch in 2023 as McKenzie & Willis’s northern most branches with brand new design showrooms.
McKenzie & Willis will continue to build on our proud tradition of customer service and quality; continuously looking to improve on our retail environments to increase our range of products and services and allow customers greater access to a total home furnishing and décor experience.