It all started with Engel Sypkes, an Australian businessman who migrated from the Netherlands to Tasmania in 1951. Shortly after his arrival, he opened a small general store in Stanley. After a trip to the United States, Sypkes was exposed to modern merchandising methods, which inspired him to open his first Purity supermarket in Hobart in 1958.

Coincidently Roelf Vos emigrated to Australia in that same year and actually arrived on the same plane. He started a retail chain in northern Tasmania and the two became fierce competitors.

Under Sypkes’ leadership, the Purity supermarket chain grew rapidly, and by the time of its sale to Woolworths in 1981, it had sixteen stores throughout southern Tasmania.

Their sons Peter and Rudie Sypkes founded Chickenfeed in 1990, a chain of discount variety stores located throughout Tasmania. The stores offered a range of products, including household items, clothing, toys, and hardware, at discounted prices. The business was successful, and in 2001, it was sold for an estimated AUD $35 million.

Sypkes family patriarch Engel Sypkes 91, with his son Peter Sypkes, left, and grandson Andrew Sypkes at the new Shiploads store in Sandy Bay. Source Mercury 10 October 2013

Peter Sypkes later went on to become involved in the technology industry. He co-founded Aconex, a Melbourne-based software company that provided online project management solutions for construction and engineering projects. Aconex was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2014 and was later acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2017 for an estimated AUD $1.6 billion. As part of the takeover bid, Peter sold his holdings in Aconex for an estimated AUD $12.8 million.

In addition to his business ventures, Peter Sypkes was appointed as the honorary consul of the Netherlands to Tasmania in 2012. He is also the patron of the Dutch Australia Society.

Rudie Sypkes has largely kept a low profile and has not been in the public eye as much as his brother Peter. However, he has been involved in various business ventures and has contributed to the Tasmanian community in various ways.

In 2011, Rudie’s son Andrew Sypkes invested in the Shiploads chain of discount stores, which operates in Tasmania and Victoria. This was shortly before the collapse of Chickenfeed, the main competitor of Shiploads and a former company of the Sypkes family. There were allegations that the Sypkes family’s ownership of a number of the Chickenfeed store locations contributed to the company’s demise, but these allegations were denied by the family.

Andrew Sypkes is also an investor in Varicon, a construction tech company that provides software solutions for the construction industry.

Engel Sypkes passed away on 13 November 2015

See also


The Dutch Tasmania connection

Companion to Tasmanian History