K M Black of Nelson


Kenneth Black ran a grocery store in Bridge Street, Nelson. The building, with the words, 'K.M. Black' marked on it, is still here - 127 Bridge Street.

I have connections with the store in two ways: it was my family's grocer, and I had an after-school job there. 

K.M Black

KM Black. Image supplied by author

On Monday mornings, Mr Large from K.M. Black would call on our house, and take down my mother's weekly grocery order. On Fridays the order was delivered in a large apple box.


View from the street of shop window displays for K M Black's grocery shop. Interior displays can also be seen through the open door. "Webster's" is written below both of the windows. F.N. Jones Collection. Nelson Provincial Museum 323301

My job at the store included weighing out sugar and flour into 3 and 6 pound paper bags, grinding coffee, and preparing and weighing our cheese. There was a cellar beneath the store, to which large wheels of cheese were delivered. These were covered in muslin ('cheese cloth'), and I had to wet and remove the cloth. After this I cut the cheese into manageable pieces to bring up to the store for weighing. Another job was to pack customers' orders in apple boxes for Friday delivery.

The store sliced customers' bacon in whatever thickness or amounts they wanted, using a slicing machine that I was not allowed to operate. They also used to grind coffee to order. You could smell the coffee as soon as you walked through the door.

Mr Black was the only grocer with a liquor licence, and there were many different brands of Scotch whisky stored in the cellar. Sometimes he invited close friends - usually Scottish - to tasting sessions in the cellar.

I guess K.M. Black's suffered the same fate as many other small stores when supermarkets came into existence.

Note: The business was founded by Malcolm Muir Webster in April, 1865. Webster, a migrant from Edinburgh, was at first employed by Pioneer Storekeepers (better known as Wilkie and Co), in Lower Bridge Street, but in 1865 he began his own store in Trafalgar Street. Later the business passed into the hands of Webster's son, M. P. Webster, and the store moved across the street to where Trathen's once stood. The Black family came to Nelson in 1910 and Ken Black joined Websters and remained at this store until 1929 when a fire forced Mr Webster to seek new premises. These were established in 127 Bridge Street and in August, 1928, Ken Black took over the business. The shop was sold in 1968 to Grocers United Stores.1

2019 (updated August 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. End of an era (1968, August 24) Nelson Photonews, p. 47

Want to find out more about the K M Black of Nelson ? View Further Sources here.

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  • Webster & Co moved in to William Moses Stanton's "Old Store" in Trafalgar
    Street in 1856 see Nelson Examiner and NZ Chronicle 5 November 1856. Stanton moved to another store in Trafalgar Street.

    Posted by Jane Teal, 04/01/2024 12:09pm (5 months ago)

  • Ken Black was married to my father, Reginald Johnstone's Aunty Dot. I remember when they would fly over from Nelson and stay with us in Wellington. I was told that Ken Black won the Irish Sweepstake and bought the shop from his employer

    Posted by Helen Avery, 02/07/2019 5:31pm (5 years ago)

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