Smith & Caughey’s Part 1, Queen Street; compare and contrast

As it happens this post is a request from the far off lands of Canada (Thanks Mariann), the first toilet request for my blog though I hope not the last.

Smith and Caughey’s (said “Co-he’s” for those who are unaware) has become a long standing Auckland tradition, like Mayoral sex-pests and house prices only a Realtor could love. This lofty institution started life as a drapery in 1880 and has spent the last 130 odd years burrowed like a tick into the flesh of Queen Street, unwilling to be moved by regeneration, façading or the scourge that is Starbucks.

restroom sign

Smith n Cau’ is a department store which consists of two outlets; Queen Street in the city and Broadway in Newmarket. One would think that because the store is owned by the same people, run by the same company, sells the same brands and therefore maintains the same clientèle, that the bathrooms would be similar versions of each other. Nope, I’m afraid not. They are as alike as chalk and diphtheria (not very alike at all).

It is due to these irreconcilable differences that I must divorce this pair of elderly love birds, rate them separately only to pit them against each other in battle to the bloody end.

pretty door

Queen Street comes first, partially because it was the original Grand-Daddy store with features and originality in spades and partially because it was the first one I edited the photos for (why pretend?).

During my visit one Saturday of late, I wandered around looking more intently at the beautiful heritage features than the products, glad of each and every one that had been saved rather than cast aside for mirrors, coloured lights and *ick* modernisation. The gorgeous elevators have managed to keep most of their charm as have occasional entrances/exits. These doors are no longer used but sit quietly in the corner looking lovely but unwanted like an ex-beauty pageant contestant who’s come along to support her younger, blonder sister.

elevator detail

The women’s public restrooms are on the first floor towards the back. The signage to get to them isn’t great, in fact the men’s restrooms totally eluded me. I searched but gave up having gotten far too hot on the over-heated second floor (yes it’s winter but it’s not bloody snowing for Christ’s sake, turn down the thermostat!).

After the wee sign tells you not to try on clothes in the loos, you find a comfy looking sitting area. I thought this was a nice touch as it was directly beside the mother and baby room and the disabled toilet. It makes a good place to wait for any carers, grandmothers, other kids or gay shopping husbands.




The bathroom it’s self is large and covered in appropriately expensive looking marble-esk wall tiles. Six stalls, loads of sinks and plenty of mirrors.








I loved the signs explaining how to flush a toilet. Obviously they had a spate of people who were unaware how a toilet works but god only knows what they were left with and how frequently to necessitate signs explaining exactly how long to hold down the button.

toilet explain

It was obvious to me that someone had put plenty of money and some planning into these facilities. I see a lady in a dark grey pencil skirt suit and a check list undertaking some focus group to find out ‘what the client really wants’. For the most part they have done well, ticked a bunch of boxes but it lacks personality and dare I say it, heart.

In my stall I noticed an open duct above my head. Understandable I thought. Works got to be done some time.

roof hole

But I also noticed a lack of cleanliness, to the standard I would have expected when buying $1,000 bags and $40 chocolate bars.

It’s a little hard to see from this image but the mirrors were really rather filthy and the bins didn’t look like they had been emptied all day, they were spewing used paper towels on to the floor.

It may that the cleaners were on their way and I visited just before a new cleaning roster began but there was also a sign requesting caution due to possible wet/slippery floors most often due to cleaning. What had they cleaners cleaned? Just the floors? That’s a bit of an over sight I feel.

grubby mirror


full bin

Strangely I also found an unaccompanied banana in one of the loos. Odd. It was a very strange thing to just randomly leave after going for a wee.

Sad banana, lonely banana.


Over all this bathroom has been planned with many of the features one would require for proper comfort; numerous stalls, plenty of sinks, hand towels and soap but I felt let down by the opportunity the planners had to really make something special. The clothing stalls on the shop floor had examples of interior planning and design which would lend nicely to a comfort stop. The heritage features of the building are also lovely but it feels a lot like they are over looked, built around and ignored. The bathroom feels like it came out of a catalogue under the section “expensive but not too pretentious, re: no gold pls”. When compared with the thoughtful features of public bathrooms of the era this building was constructed during this one is sorely lacking.

It has no soul, just those beige marble-esk wall tiles.



Cleanliness: 6/10

Interior: 8/10

Exterior: 8/10

Safety: 8/10

Snugglitude: 3/10                                      Total:  33/50



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