Making it Happen

Retailing is a complex business with multiple channels for vendors to promote and sell their wares. Dubbed 'The Experience Economy', we now want a hell of  a lot more from a store.  We want to do something, make something, talk to those in the know, have a cup of tea or glass of wine whilst we learn something, be entertained ... and maybe buy something before leaving the shop.

I suspect this relates to the potential social isolation that comes with the digital age combined with housing density, that increasingly sees so many of us living in small apartments, a scenario running parallel to fading memories of a house on a quarter acre block with a hills hoist in the back yard; the era when passing on cooking and craft skills was generally Nana's domain. These days she is likely to be too busy at yoga and attending to her personal wellness to be bothered with baking scones (too many carbs) and picking up dropped stitches.

Happily, all is not lost! Master crafter and textile designer, Cath Derksema has relocated the hills hoist to the rear of The Happen Store and is the coolest version of a crafty Aunt you could wish for.  Within the walls of this repurposed old building, makers can hang their hand-made shibori fabric out to dry or display their colourful stitched cushion covers on the clothes line beside those belonging to a new found friend.

Push open the heavy front door and you are greeted by a range of stunning yarns, Cath's joyfully colourful Prints Charming fabrics, on topic books and a carefully selected range of prints and objects for gifting and home. A champion for 'buy local', all product for sale is exclusively handmade by Australian artists and craftspeople.

It seems to me that Cath has created a modern retail version of 'neighbourhood' where common interests is the connector.

Part shop, gallery, workshop and meeting place, you will find The Happen Store at 55 Parramatta Road Annandale in Sydney.

Tue to Fri 10am–4pm

Sat 12pm–5pm  @thehappenstore @printscharmingoriginalfabrics

Thai Take on Providore


Amy Chanta came to Australia with $300 in her pocket and the dream of a  better life for her 2 small children. Fast forward around 30 years and her story is the epitome of 'migrant makes good' achieved through hard work, persistence and serving up damn good Thai food.

I first stumbled across Amy's food in her Haymarket Chat Thai cafe which, at the time, caught my eye for a variety of reasons whilst wandering through Sydney's Chinatown  ... a queue on the street waiting for a table, a modern yellow logo on the shop front, an open kitchen with well presented staff cooking fresh food to order.  It was a stand out from the tired, traditional, slightly jaded and faded outlets in the neighbourhood.

Boon Cafe is her most recent venture albeit around 12 months old.  It combines Asian grocery with a cafe that offers a Thai twist on 'all day cafe' fare. For readers who know Sourced Grocer in Brisbane, Boon Cafe is pretty much the Thai/Asian version when it comes to the format.

I've visited plenty of Asian grocery shops around the country but have not seen anything like Boon with its 'now' design and cafe inclusion.  There is a cool room abundant with fresh Asian herbs, fruits and vegetables ... dragonfruit, banana blossom, tiny Thai eggplant, fresh ginger and tumeric, pre-packed fresh ingredients to make your own Tom Yum soup etc.  If you're not with me, it's sort of the equivalent of a cheese room in a European style deli if you like.

Open 7am to midnight, my experience was an early evening casual bite after a working day but I'm curious to find out more, so Boon is on my list for breakfast or lunch next time I'm in Sydney as there is plenty on the Thai inspired "modern cafe" hybrid menu that seems worthy of a tasting trip.

#PODfinds   @boon_cafe #booncafe #jarernthaigrocer

Jarern Thai Asian Grocer and Boon Cafe, 425 Pitt Street, Sydney 

The Cool Cobbler

POD_Cobbler_SH Arch I came across this fabulous shoe repair store sometime last year (and obviously forgot to share it with you ... better late than never I say!). Some really honest design work by architects Stewart Hollenstein. If you're in need of a new sole you will have to head to Sydney, 29 Darlinghurst Road Potts Point to be exact. Images via retaildesignblog

Everyday eccentricities

Pylones is a French brand who puts a whole lot of personality into everyday objects. I've seen their rather striking stores in Paris and London and my retail radar went off when I spied their signature bright drums and 'can't miss it colour' walking through the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney recently. Next time you feel the need for a Prince & Princess dust pan and brush, a girly grater to perk up your kitchen accessories or a gift that is a little different you can find them somewhere on the lower level of the building. I gather this is their first store in Oz. Pylones, QVB, Sydney.

Pylones Paris Sydney

Join the queue

From what I have observed people queue for Jamie's Italian. Whether it's London or downtown Sydney, come dinner time they are lined up at the door. If you know Sydney this is quite an impressive sight, given that any credible casual evening dining option appears to be located in the suburbs and not the CBD (unlike Melbourne where there are so many fabulous city restaurant options it can be difficult to choose).

A recent trip to the Emerald City saw me "up and at 'em" by 4am to catch an early flight and 'tick a lot of boxes' on a jam packed day ... by 6pm I was ready for the LON (land of Nod) ... but instead I mustered up the energy for a quick dinner with Jamie. A long narrow site on Pitt Street no doubt presented more than a design challenge or two, but the space rises to the occasion and then some. In what can only be described as "distinctly Jamie", a full house by 6.30pm and a queue at the door on a chilly Tuesday evening spoke volumes to me. My food was good, the price fair, the atmosphere 'casual', the diners ranged from singles to groups and 'old' (70+) to young, and my waiter (Spanish Sebastian) was just happy to be of service .. there's lots to like about all that. Jamie's Italian 107 Pitt Street Sydney.

Jamie Oliver Food Sydney

If the shoe fits

The word on the street in downtown Burwood is that Rubi Shoes is doing very nicely as a result of a store makeover.  Part of the Cotton On group, it would appear that some serious talent from Top Shop has come on board to direct the new look and feel. From what I hear, it is kicking goals with a 'cheap and cheerful' boot or shoe or two!  Nice work Rubi! Spotted at Westfield, Burwood.

VM Westfield Fashion Sydney

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

Ms G has more personality than you can poke a chopstick at and food with bucket loads of flavour (and a fair amount of attitude thrown in for good measure). Some weeks ago now I took a super speedy trip to Sydney for the Fine Food expo and was treated to dinner at this Asian outpost (well for the Merivale Group I guess it's an outpost ... Victoria St Potts Point is not the CBD where they tend to dominate the dining real estate and keep the Sydney social scene on its toes). First up there is the brilliant branding - loved the menu and biz card design (soz, it was too dark to get a pic so you will have to go see for yourself) and the in-your-face artwork (the pop fluoro 621 is the E number for monosodium glutamate and the joke behind the name - darn how clever is that). Mini banh mi rolls, twice-cooked pork belly and grilled corn on the cob was washed down with a v. good wine list. Desserts are hilarious although I was slightly dubious (an exploded jam donut had me thinking wtf? ... but I'm somewhat easily influenced and our 'smooth-yet-subtle-I'm-all-over-this-game' waiter talked us into what turned out to be a sweet sensory sensation). Chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu have taken iconic Asian street dishes and served them with premium chilli sauces and zesty dipping mayos with no 621 in sight. It's friendly, fast and loads of fun. Ms G 155 Victoria Street Potts Point Sydney.

Ms G Food Sydney

Get yourself some new threads

Monster Threads (a collective for indie illustrators to sell their wares) has opened a bright new store at The Galleries in Sydney. Compared to their Causeway Lane closet in Melbourne this one offers a lot more space to peruse the product. A super friendly young man was being most helpful behind the counter (I liked that so much I made a purchase to kick start my Christmas shopping - lordy it really is that time of year again).  You can find them  on street level at The Galleries, 500 George St Sydney.

Oliver Brown goes to town

The friendly design crew at Morris Selvatico in Sydney sent me some snaps of their latest project (actually  I've never met them but their logo looks friendly so I've decided they must be!). Given that I am running with a 'dramatic tiles and wallpaper finds' theme today I thought I'd share this striking looking new cafe with you. Specialising in handcrafted chocolates, the design intent was to capture an ambience that is both vintage and contemporary, that celebrates both the timeless art of chocolate making and our modern cafe society.  Morris Selvatico also wanted the design to set the store apart from the surrounding competition, which by the look of these pictures suggests all the boxes on the design brief have been ticked. You can find Oliver Brown at Westfield Chatswood.

Westfield Food Sydney

Flower power

Australia's grand old dame of department stores celebrates 25 years of spring flowers in spectacular style. Stunning windows and big bold bunches in store, combined with a really nice brand association (Vera Wang's new perfume Anniversary), gives this year's retrospective that added scent of success. David Jones, Elizabeth St, Sydney.
VM Fashion Sydney