Celebrating 90 years

August 09, 2017

John Mentha celebrates a lifetime in menswear.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since a single, 24-year-old John Mentha arrived in Cobram in 1951.

He came from his home town of Horsham to take up a position with Mathew Thompson’s general store — where Tozers pharmacy is located today.

In 1953 he moved to Berrigan to take up a position with Sammon Edwards, affectionately known as the Big Store.

A wedding and a couple of children later he was head-hunted back to Cobram to manage the menswear department for W. Adams & Co, where IGA is today.

After some due diligence, a business plan and a sympathetic bank manager, John commenced his own menswear business in a tiny shop at number 60 Brent Crt, adjacent to the then Melba theatre, in November 1960.

John’s son, Greg, said that thanks to great support from the Cobram Barooga and district community, the business was very successful and a series of acquisitions, capital works programs and renovations has seen the business evolve to what is today.

‘‘None of this would have been possible without dozens of dedicated staff over the past 57 years,’’ Greg said.

John and his wife Monica are particularly proud of the fact that a third generation is now involved in the management of Menthas of Cobram.

The patriarch recalled some of the highlights of a long retail career, including the opening of a second shop in Bank St and a fires that came perilously close to Mentha’s shop.

In January 2008, the ANZ bank premises was destroyed by fire.

‘‘I remember, I was home and my wife said there was a fire in a bank in Bank St,’’ John said.

‘‘I said to her, there’s only one bank there and it’s next door to us.

‘‘I came around the corner, the flames were flying out the front and I couldn’t get down the street because fire trucks were everywhere.

‘‘I thought, ‘It’s gone’ but it wasn’t — it was still there.

‘‘And we’d just renovated, too,’’ he said.

The 90-year-old said Cobram has been wonderful to the Mentha family, despite his modest beginnings.

‘‘I came home from the honeymoon and I had 28 quid — that was everything I had.

‘‘The Berrigan people have been wonderful too, and Barooga, Jerilderie — we got a lot of business from Yarrawonga, too.’’

And was there a family history in menswear or tailoring?

‘‘No, my father was in the dental business and I didn’t want to do that — and that’s how it all started.

‘‘In the years to come — and I don’t think there’s many left — I’ve got great-grandchildren, golf and fishing to look forward to.

‘‘I love fishing — I don’t eat it but I go miles to catch a fish.’’

 - Grahame Whyte

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