Lost Edinburgh: Goldbergs Department Store

Goldbergs, pictured in 1990 with a closing sign clearly visible. Picture: Bill Newton/TSPL
Goldbergs, pictured in 1990 with a closing sign clearly visible. Picture: Bill Newton/TSPL
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THERE are few ‘lost Edinburgh’ structures dating from the 1960s that are recalled as fondly as Goldbergs.

Located at High Riggs at the junction with Tollcross and Lauriston Place, Goldbergs department store proudly stood for over 25 years. Since its closure in 1990, it has gone from being a much missed shoppers paradise to securing a firm foothold within the annals of local legend.

The innovative owners of Goldbergs first opened a store in Glasgow in 1908, and by the middle of the century were ready to expand. They were intent on establishing a form of department store, that was at that time, unique to the city of Edinburgh. The bold, confident design represented a shift from the Victorian department stores of old. Twin gold statues adorned a plinth-like façade clad in distinctive marble and glass, the exterior loomed large over its surroundings. Tollcross was an area of town where the bleak, soot ridden tenements contrasted starkly against the clean-cut modernity that Goldbergs oozed. At its entrance, a car park provided an up to date convenience that automatically set it apart from its competition; here was a department store that embraced the future. Goldbergs yelled “cutting-edge” before you even had the chance to stroll through its automatic doors and traverse the impressively long escalators - both of which were considered new-fangled curiosities at the time.

The store was Jewish owned, and as a result was initially closed on a Saturday - a scenario which is difficult to imagine today. However, the obvious potential for increase in takings on weekends eventually convinced the owners to have a rethink. Asides from selling a variety of fashions and wares across 5 floors, the store also boasted a rooftop cafe offering castle views with a garden menagerie featuring a host of exotic birds. There was even a creche, providing one of the first and only family-friendly shopping precincts in the city at that time. Despite these advantages and its general retail dominance during the 1960s and 1970s, the creation of both the St. James and Waverley Shopping Centres were instrumental in the demise of Goldbergs. Sales suffered during the 1980s and since a proposed new highway system at Tollcross never came to fruition, the store simply couldn’t compete based on location with its main two rivals. The axe finally fell in 1990 with demolition taking place in 1996. Apartments have since been built on the site.

High Riggs, the ancient and once prominent artery into old Edinburgh has never felt quite the same since.