Allison's was founded by JW Allison, who started business as a butcher in 1895. Finding additional income from his animal skins by selling straps, saddles and other leather goods to the public, Allison started advertising as a saddler in 1902, and in 1904 built the beautiful building in Church Street which remained the business premises until 1987 when it moved to Commercial Road. The business traded in those premises for 10 years before relocating to Victoria Road, where it is more spacious and there is an abundance of parking for customers.
JW Allison died in 1936 and his son, AT Allison, who later became mayor of Pietermaritzburg and is one of the few to be accorded the city's freedom, took over.

Allison's is synonymous with the “white horse” which stands on the shop floor. The horse, which was built in the United Kingdom, is rumoured to be older than the shop.