FK chats to Lucia of newly opened concept store OConnell Street Merchants, located in Newtown. Lucia has cleverly shared this space with other brands, bringing together a fabulous ‘market style’ space to explore!
Tell us a bit about OConnell Street Merchants and the concept behind it.
OConnell Street Merchants is a retail collective that brings together artisans and merchants who may have a small retail profile into a” market style” space. The traditional, tactile bricks and mortar environment allows merchants to engage with consumers while also being a platform for them to build their online presence. Having only opened in mid December we are still in our infancy and the space is constantly evolving. We have new products and and brands joining the collective over the coming weeks, bringing together an eclectic range of wares keeping the space fresh and interesting for the consumer and merchants alike.
What is your background and what lead you to where you are?
My background is in retail as a visual merchandiser where I worked across a broad range of product from homewares to surf and street wear. I love styling shops and shopping. I was feeling a little disheartened as a consumer with the product selection and presentation in traditional shopping malls. I was lucky to have been offered this space, as my partner is one of the operators in the cafe Brewtown Newtown located on the ground floor of this building. I instantly fell in love with the space and started thinking of ways to make it into a retail destination offering a thoughtful and diverse range of products that are relative to our lifestyle with a real focus on design, quality and function. With the area being quite large, sharing the space seemed like a natural thing to do. It seemed like a good opportunity to offer short term leases within the space creating a more accessible option for smaller brands wanting to experiment with retail. It’s about creating an experience for people, they can enjoy the wonderful coffee and food on offer downstairs then wander upstairs and browse through the collections engage with the merchants and designers who have the opportunity to showcase their entire ranges in a relaxed and friendly “village market style” environment.
What kind of items can we expect to find at OConnell Street Merchants?
Just about anything – Australian fashion label Three Over One host their own concession, as does Australian eyewear company Bailey Nelson and lifestyle brand The DAN300 Group. You can also find a selection of locally and internationally produced fashion, home and lifestyle products, anything from french striped canvas deck chairs to hand made candles, beard soaps and tonics, fresh flowers and plants, curated by myself. There is also an affogatto bar opening in the next few weeks, featuring gelato from local gelato specialists Cow and The Moon and of course coffee from Brewtown Newtown. With new retailers and brands participating the collection is constantly growing and evolving. We had a bicycle pop-up featuring Tokyo Bikes, who hosted their own pop up in the lead up to Christmas .
What is your inspiration for the shop, and what keeps you motivated?
I am inspired by small business energy and good old Australian entrepreneurial spirit. At the moment with the shop being so new every day is different, and as we are tucked away up a side street its nice to see the delight on peoples faces when they discover us for the first time.
I am motivated and encouraged by the local community many of who have embraced the shop local mantra. We already have a following of regulars, who drop by for breakfast downstairs then pop in upstairs pick up a pair of shorts, tee shirt, a gorgeous collar for their dog or a hanging planter and deck chairs for their garden.
Who are the team behind OConnell Street Merchants and what are their roles?
OConnell Street Merchants is a venture undertaken by myself and my partner Simon, I take care of the fun stuff like sourcing products, establishing meetings with potential tenants, and styling the shop with a lot of support from Simon in the day to day business stuff. Also the team consists of the current tenants, merchants and designers who really help set OConnell Street Merchants apart as a shopping destination, “where wares are shared and stories told”.
What do you love most about running your shop? and what have been some challenges?
My first love is visual merchandising, its always a joy and sometimes a challenge styling the shop with a new delivery.
I think small business retail is always challenging, trying to get the mix of product and presentation right. Especially in this instance where together artisans and merchants are offering a range that is both complementary to brands currently represented in the space and relevant to your audience. But that is also what keeps me motivated and excited about the future.
What exciting things are you looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to more creative collaborations and entrepreneurial additions to the collective and the evolution of OConnell Street Merchants, as a retail destination. Watch this space!
All the other specific details:
OConnell Street Merchants
Level 1 6-8 OConnelll Street