Established in 1856 by Edward Reece, who had arrived in Christchurch the previous year, the firm of E Reece & Sons as it became served the residents of the city for many decades. Edward sent his son William to England for his education and upon his return in 1879, William was given management of the firm by his father. Upon Edward's death in 1887, ownership was shared by William and his brother C S Reece. William took sole ownership of the firm in 1892 upon his brother's retirement. He served as the Mayor of Christchurch in 1900, the city's Jubilee year.
The original premises, an old wooden building with three foot gables was demolished in 1870 to be replaced on the same site on Colombo Street by a three storey brick building designed to house both the wholesale and retail operations of the business.
In the early 1900s, the ground floor was occupied by the retail showroom, extending some 150 feet back from the entrance, where a wide range of items were on display, including sterling silver and electro plated ware, fancy goods, cutlery, toilet and general brushware, lamps, filters, general furnishing ironmongery of all descriptions, cricket, tennis, and croquet tools, Milner's safes, brass foundry, bicycles and bicycle sundries, all kinds of fencing material, lawnmowers, farm and garden tools.
Reece's also took pride in offering a comprehensive line of guns and ammunition:
On the second floor, a further showroom held register fire-grates, hearths, mantels, and overmantels for all price ranges, while the third floor held reserve stocks of lamps and tinware. In the basement, Reece's stock of lubricating oils was stored.
Wholesale operations were housed in an adjoining three storey building located on Lichfield Street.