Part three of our Christmas series
If you get the feeling that the collection of wares at Melbournalia are tightly curated, you’d be correct. In fact, before she was bringing us Melbourne’s loveliest gift store, owner and co-founder Jenny Brown studied curatorial studies and taught art and design.
Melbournalia sits at the top end of Bourke Street with famous neighbours such as Pellegrini’s, Grossi Florentino and Parliament House. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort in to the layout, architecture and design,” says Jenny. “The architect is Nick Williams. It was great for him because he wanted to experiment as well. He looked at the site and was inspired by the glass walls. The possibilities were endless, but in fact he took his inspiration from a building he’d seen in Norway which was a reindeer hide [where you go to watch wild reindeer]! It was a glass box with a beautiful big wavy wall. So this is a tiny version of that”.
But this concept hasn’t always been housed in architect designed spaces. In the few preceding years, Jenny and a couple of (former) business partners brought Melbournalia to us in a few different pop-ups. “We had a few over 2 years – at the Queen Victoria Market, at Captains of Industry, in the Nicholas Building and at a café. We rented from friends and family and people that would give us good deals. We built all our displays out of cardboard boxes and milk crates. But it looked fabulous! It had a makeshift feel – which was intentional”.
After the concept proved itself, Jenny wanted to create a permanent space, showcasing gifts and souvenirs made by locals. “The trigger for Melbournalia was that I was having the same conversation with two different sets of people. We were talking about Melbourne, Melbourne’s stories and things made in Melbourne. We decided to put our heads together – and so we did! They became my business partners, but now have moved onto other things. But we still stock quite a few of those wares from the original collection that we put together. They include Able & Gain, Otto & Spike, Hardie Grant books, Make Me Iconic and Sunday Paper.
The best sellers at Melbournalia are – you guessed it – foodie treats. The Melbourne City Rooftop Honey and Mork hot chocolate mixes are very popular, as are the small bottles of Kester Black nail polish. Oh and anything with a tram on it.
But which products does she like the best? “It’ soooooo hard to pick a favourite product!” says Jenny. “They’re all my favourites because I know everybody. There’s a person behind every product! Everyone has a name and a face and a story”. But there is something that features in her own house right now and Jenny gets pretty excited about it. “This body crème range by Kleins. Well – they are using some beautiful skills that they’ve picked up in the cosmetics industry. But they are so cleverly done! She has got permission from the Rennie Ellis Archive to use his imagery. He was a Melbourne based photographer who took incredible photos of everyday life…. the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s. She’s used them as the labels and the scents match the imagery. Yuzu and Sea Salt was inspired by the beachy pictures of Lorne in the 1970’s. And they’re just heaven to use!”
While no single day is the same, Jenny like to create some structure by having her daily to-do list. “It’s a combination of set tasks (like paperwork) and then an endless stream of pleasant (and annoying) interruptions.
We also have lots of regulars, such as local residents and office workers. It’s particularly lovely when international visitors come back.”
While it’s more than worth it to follow their lead and come in and visit the store itself, there is also an online store for those wanting to support local products, but who cannot make it to the city.
Find Jenny Brown at Melbournalia on the corner of Bourke St and Liverpool St, right up near Spring St. Or shop online at http://melbournalia.com.au