‘The Schrapel Emporium’

barossa history

‘The Schrapel Emporium’

words by
luke rothe
>> The E.Schrapel building c. 1917

Ernst Schrapel was born in Tanunda, 1861. Over his lifetime he was described as having ‘enterprise, good judgment and a tremendous capacity for work’.

Ernst started work at a local brick kiln when he was nine years old.

Five years later he was collecting eggs around the district using a horse drawn van.

At sixteen, Ernst started working as a wheelwright for Tanunda blacksmith, Rudolph Klau, where he developed an interest in machine building.

In 1884, aged 22, Ernst purchased his brother’s pug and slab blacksmith shop in Tanunda, where he designed and built buggies, wagons and implements which won numerous prizes in local shows.

The old blacksmith shop had a small office where Ernst stocked some tools and hardware for local buyers.

This humble beginning in retail was to turn into one of the state’s largest country stores.

The first substantial Schrapel building was constructed around 1900 (now Priceline Pharmacy),  opening as a ‘Coach & Implement Manufactory’, ‘Steam Saw Mills’ and ‘Timber & Iron Yards’, however Ernst also traded as a ‘Hardware Merchant’.

To broaden his business, Ernst opened a branch store at Sedan in 1910, where he traded as E. Schrapel & Company, until about 1918.

In 1914 Ernst went overseas and gained contracts which enabled him to import goods.

A 1917 receipt states him as an ‘Importer and Hardware Merchant’ selling ‘hardware, glassware, electroplated goods and furniture’.

>> Receipts and letterheads 1905-1947.

Ernst installed an electricity generating plant for the business, and in 1920 he secured a 20 year contract to supply the whole township of Tanunda with electricity.

In 1920 Ernst was advertising as an agent for numerous companies including Studebaker cars, Metters windmills, Bagshaw winnowers, Massey Harris, also providing insurance and fertilizers.

‘Cars overhauled and carefully repaired’ was another service provided.

The continual expansion of the business led to the formation of E. Schrapel & Sons Limited in 1920, with sons, Walter and Roland joining as co-directors.

A 1924 Schrapel calendar boasts an exhaustive list of products and services using the catch phrase ‘Anything & Everything at Schrapels’.

The ‘motor garage’ sold ‘Invincible Ford’ cars, while other departments advertised ‘Furniture, drapery, glassware, boots and shoes’.

‘Electrical’ goods were available, which is smart marketing considering Ernst was supplying the town with power!


Nearly a decade later, Schrapel’s 1933 Winter Sale catalogue shows more change.

Groceries are advertised including Schrapel brand tea, flour, sauce and Schrapel’s No. 1 soap.

Customers are directed to ‘visit our cafeteria’…’at all hours’ – a surprisingly advanced concept for a country store.

The 1933 catalogue also advertises gramophones, radios, pianos, violins, guitars, accordions and mouth organs. Paper record covers were printed to promote Schrapel’s large music department.

Sadly Ernst’s two company director sons, Walter and Roland, died in 1933 at a relatively young age.

After Ernst’s death in 1942, Rowland’s sons, Jack and Brian continued the business.

The grocery store was operated by Schrapel’s under the ‘Save-Way’ chain in the early 1960’s, and in 1965 it was bought by Woolworths.

By the early 1980’s the family business closed, but the buildings still stand proudly in the main street of Tanunda as testament to the enterprise of Ernst Schrapel.

>> Paper record cover c. 1930s

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian
and enthusiast
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