Leopold Conrad, for whom the complex was built, began trading in Hindley Street in 1869 as a butcher and smallgoods manufacturer. His firm became one of the largest of its type in South Australia and had its head office in Hindley Street.
In 1902, Leopold Conrad’s old shops were pulled down and by the end of 1903 a group of 12 shops and dwellings, designed by his architect son Albert Conrad, had replaced them. Conrad named the complex Austral Stores.
In 1908, Jonathan Grant, who had operated successful dining rooms in Hindley Street opposite the Austral Stores, took up a lease in the complex and established Grant’s Coffee Palace.
Coffee palaces were by this time an established tradition in Adelaide. With the founding in 1884 of the South Australian Temperance Alliance, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1886, the temperance movement gained a strong political and moral voice. Coffee palaces sprang up as a result, although by the time Grant’s Coffee Palace moved into the Austral Stores they had evolved into a form of cheap accommodation with more frills than boarding houses. They remained unlicensed and were not classed as hotels, and were particularly popular with country visitors.
Grant’s Coffee Palace was taken over in 1919 by John West and renamed West’s Coffee Palace. When John West died in 1926, his wife Agnes took over management of the coffee palace and his family continued to run the accommodation side.
The building was eventually subdivided and the shops sold. Around 1960 the ornate verandah/balcony was removed and the present shopfronts inserted.
The complex is an excellent example of the florid freestyle typical of the Edwardian period. Twin three-storey towers with flanking pavilions dominate the main facade, and the roof features vertical elements, party walls, tiles and ridge work. Built of brick with stuccoed dressings, the complex has similarities with the Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange, built about the same time.
Although altered and in deteriorating condition, the upper floor of the building remains remarkably original.