Founded in 1843 as Oakes, Partridge & Co., it was the city’s first department store, selling everything short of a “wife or housekeeper”. Originally founded in Broadway, they moved their headquarters to Mount Road opposite the Government House in 1895, when they reconstituted themselves as a limited liability company. As general merchants, they held a large and varied assortment of all kinds of hard and soft goods, wines and spirits and were representatives of a number of insurance and shipping companies. They also established a cigar factory in 1892. The “Beehive Foundry” was their iron foundry and engineering works division, which successfully executed several projects for the railways, shipping companies and many leading merchants of the Madras Presidency.
In the 1920s, Oakes & Co was taken over by the Spencers, with the “takeover king” J.O.Robinson spearheading the move. The Beehive foundry still survives today as a part of the Beehive Kowtha Group, having been taken over by Kowtha Suryanarayana Rao, the scion of a leading business family from Vijayawada.