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Lindstrom, Frank August (1890–1982)

by Matt Bailey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Frank August Lindstrom  (1890-1982), grocer and businessman, was born on 23 November 1890 at Newcastle, New South Wales, second of three children of Swedish-born Pehr Olaf Lindstrom, tailor, and his wife Mary Hannah, née Jacobs, born on the Isle of Wight.  In 1895 his mother bought a mixed business at Wickham, Newcastle.  After his father died in 1904 Frank left school, moving from part-time to full-time work operating a bread cart for a local baker.  Later Frank was employed by Winn’s department store, Newcastle, but became dissatisfied and returned to the family shop.  He married Violet Ruth Watts, a milliner, on 9 March 1918 at the Baptist church, Islington, Wickham.

Between 1913 and 1915 Frank and his brother Harry had forged an informal business partnership with a shared contribution of £150, turning the family shop into the first Lindstrom Bros Pty Ltd grocery store.  They combined well:  Harry, deeply religious, was the 'slogger' in the warehouse; Frank was the 'brains', with an entrepreneurial edge.  They signed a formal partnership agreement in 1927.  Lindstrom Bros 'cut price quality' proved popular through the Depression.  By the late 1930s they owned and operated between forty and fifty stores, each employing two to five people, in the Newcastle, Maitland and Lake Macquarie area.  Frank built himself a grand waterfront house at Belmont in 1940, but rationing during World War II caused the chain to retract.  By the mid-1940s there were twenty-five outlets.

Setting out on his own, Frank Lindstrom developed a chain of Sydney service stores under the name of Franklin’s Stores—a mixture of his own name and that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States of America.  Lindstrom registered the business in 1941 and set up ten stores across Sydney’s suburbs between 1944 and 1954.  Although they survived, they were not overly profitable.  Lindstrom sold Franklin’s in 1954 to Harold Cornock.  Self-service swept through the grocery trade in the 1950s.  Pre-empting looming competition from the national chains, in 1955 Lindstrom started Newcastle’s first self-serve supermarket chain Goodways.  In 1958 he caused a storm by undercutting bread prices.  Bakers, supported by their unions, and Lindstrom contested the price drop on the front pages of Newcastle’s newspapers in terms of jobs versus value for the housewife.  Alongside Goodways, Lindstrom Bros stores continued to trade profitably throughout Newcastle for most of the 1950s.  The Lindstrom Bros and Goodways businesses were sold to the Newcastle grocery wholesalers Matthews Thompson & Co. Ltd late in 1958.

Following the sales, Frank and Violet moved to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains.  Frank combined his business interests into a new entity, FAL Holdings Pty Ltd, which managed upwards of thirty Newcastle commercial premises—many retained after originally being acquired through Lindstrom Bros.  In the late 1970s they went to live with their daughter Joy in South Australia.

In their youth, when their father died, Frank and Harry had moved from their local Methodist Sunday school to a Baptist tabernacle.  Frank developed a strong allegiance to Baptist stewardship, believing that 'we have a great responsibility to God in relation to our money and the disposal of it'.  He donated regularly to Baptist causes throughout his life:  during World War II grocery parcels were consigned to England and money was sent to missionaries and to the overseas students’ scholarship fund of the Baptist Theological College of New South Wales.  A fine musician, he also served as the organist in local Baptist churches.

Former employees and suppliers remembered Frank Lindstrom as 'a gentleman', 'a man of his word', tall, well-built and perennially healthy.  Some recalled him as 'a pretty tough man to work for'; he would straighten out anyone who tried to 'put one over him'.  He preferred to deal with sales representatives with whom he had an ongoing relationship rather than their out-of-town managers.  Personal acquaintances spoke highly of him.  If Frank returned the affection, he was likely to 'play the organ for you'.  Survived by his wife and their two daughters, he died on 7 November 1982 at Stirling in the Adelaide Hills and was cremated.  After the last member of his direct family died in 1999, ten remaining properties were sold and a sum of about $3 million was donated to a range of charities.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Herald, 10 November 1982, p 8
  • Australian Baptist, 15 December 1982, p 19
  • Newcastle Post, 10 December 1986, p 4
  • Newcastle Herald, 13 March 1999, p 3
  • Lindstrom papers (Baptist Union of New South Wales Archives, Sydney)
  • private information

Citation details

Matt Bailey, 'Lindstrom, Frank August (1890–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lindstrom-frank-august-14155/text25166, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 November 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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