If taking a day trip out of Brisbane I assume most people, as a general rule, head North or South. Last Wednesday I headed West. Upon announcing to anyone who would listen that I was "off to Ipswich" I was met with a similar range of reactions (rolling eyeballs, "WTF?" and "AYKM?!" being the most common response) but, being an optimist and relatively new to this part of the world, I shrugged it off and went on my way.
Firstly, I am pleased to report the doubters were wrong! Secondly, you only need a few hours and not a full day (it's about a 30 min drive from inner Brissy). Once you've taken in the views of gorgeous old Queenslanders and historical buildings I suggest you head straight past the 'WTF' and right on into the 'Top of Town' (home to a small cluster of on-trend shops and cafes).
Pictured above is Stuart Ellis's treasure trove of old and new furniture, objects and art. Fabulous finds like imported windows from Paris and restored iron gates from Egypt sit along side locally made artisan book cases and the like. This old plumber's shed is mostly made up of retail, but venture to the very back and you will find the workshop where restoration of precious pieces is also part of the story.
After doing retail time in Brissy (Tennerife), the move to Ipswich by ES Traders is a clue that the town is undergoing somewhat of a retail renaissance being lead by Stuart and a sprinkling of seriously stylish neighbours. I'll be heading back for a coffee at the mod little cafe that sits at the start of the lane, do a little more snooping and see what new surprises he has in store.
You can find ES Traders in Bon Laneway, 17C Ellenborough Street. Open 10.00 - 3.00 Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays.
A few doors up you will find the Traders newest neighbour, Faded Empire offering a small range of women's designer labels (think Maison Scotch etc), some striking costume jewellery (Ghost & Lola etc), Kantha lampshades from India and other wares for the home. The owners description is 'a contemporary store with an old soul' which sums it up perfectly. Love their logo too.
Just around the corner on Brisbane Street Cultiver offers a youthful mix of vintage, indie designer homewares (some fab screen printed tea towels and the like), slightly kooky accessories, quirky crocheted cacti and hand made greeting cards. There is a lot more to this store but that is my immediate recall as I sit and tap this out late in the evening a week later.
A few doors further up the street you can take a snoop through some second hand treasures. In addition to the scent of 'must & moth balls' I am sure you could sniff out a bargain or two at Lutveys.
By now you are just about at the top of the town. Province is a retail front for an interior design business and a nice addition to the neighbourhood.
Once you have had your fill of homewares etc. I suggest you walk over the road to The Fourth Child for a coffee, brunch, lunch or whatever. Mother of three and owner, Amanda Robertson, had an established following for her cakes which she sold through market stalls but from what I can gather she was not content with mere baking and babies (or having enough on her plate obviously??). She went on to have her 'fourth child' and by doing so branched out from baking to an all day cafe model with a paddock to plate / locavore (100 mile / 160km radius), sustainable, 'do the right thing' type ethos. It appears to be working. The 'child' was on it's best behaviour when patrons packed the place out last Wednesday lunchtime. My count of 'bums on seats' suggests that the locals really like it.
I have to admit my expectations for finding retail inspiration in Ipswich were low. I love it when I am taken by surprise (which is something of a challenge when you have been looking at retail for as long as I have!). Thanks to all the fine Top of Town people I spoke to and letting me share my version of their story.