ISHKA has been bringing the world closer to Fitzroy for over 20 years. Stepping into the Fitzroy store is like entering another world, a world awash in colour, spirituality, creativity and free cultural expression.
A world where antique Indian temple doors stand tall alongside spiritual-inspired tapestries and multicolour dreamcatchers. Where majestic statement furniture pieces are found nestled amongst eclectic homewares, curious collectables and handpainted crafts from diverse third world communities.
And now the end of an era has come. With the no. 302 Nicholson St side closing down, we thought we’d take a look back at Fitzroy’s colourful history and chat with staff to hear their most memorable moments working at ISHKA’s iconic warehouse store.
ISHKA landed at the sprawling Fitzroy plot around 21 years ago as its success was fast outgrowing the size of its stores. The original Glen Iris store was spread across 3 jam-packed floors of an old Victorian building – receiving deliveries out on the foot path and having to walk them up the stairs was certainly not convenient we’re told!
So an open warehouse plan was the next logical step. When ISHKA first came to Fitzroy, the area was an industrial district. Michael, ISHKA’s founder, wasn’t entirely convinced it would be a success. But as the area increasingly became gentrified over the years, the store’s popularity grew. ISHKA Fitzroy went on to become the most successful store in the company and eventually expanded, taking over its neighbouring building, 302, originally an old tent factory.
No. 302 Nicholson St sitting empty before ISHKA expanded the Fitzroy warehouse and combined the two buildings.
We spoke to a few of the staff who shared their most memorable experiences working at the vibrant, bustling heart of ISHKA that was the Fitzroy warehouse store.
Toby Darvall, CEO / Co-owner:
“I will never forget the huge Fitzroy June warehouse sales. They would go absolutely crazy – everyone used to put on the red apron and pitch in. Hard work but lots of fun! Our customers were amazing – many of them driving from southern NSW to come to the sale once the word got out. That’s what gave us the idea to open stores in country NSW and Victoria.”
“When we used to run the ISHKA warehouse from Fitzroy we lost piles of stock down behind the pallets and deep shelves. Years later when we removed the shelves to expand the shop, we found so many treasures from years gone by. Our loyal regulars got to know this and would come and find a previously hidden gem.”
Michael Sklovsky, ISHKA Founder:
“As the concept of ISHKA is immersed in counter-culture, the arts and freedom of expression, many from the arts community have been drawn to our Fitzroy store. During our 21 year history there we’ve hosted many exhibitions for local artists and hired out furniture for film, theatre and TV productions. Perhaps the most notable of these was ‘Noah’s Ark’, a 1999 mini-series starring Jon Voight.
It’s been wonderful to see ISHKA Fitzroy become a cultural hub of sorts over the years, and we’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know many of our great local customers from a vast range of interesting and diverse backgrounds.”
Kylie, Area Manager
“A funny story is the time a random customer asked to use the Fitzroy showroom for her wedding photos. On the big day the party arrived and began taking lots of ‘interesting’ photos! They then asked my colleague Katie and myself to jump in the photos with the wedding party, but we were total strangers to them. It was hilarious!”
Katie, Store Manager
“True to Melbourne’s crazy unpredictable weather, I remember one summer we had a freak storm come through. All of a sudden the wind rushed through and began blowing everything over outside the store – even our bright Bali flags were flying through the air – it was quite scary! I ran out to try to catch them but it was all pretty chaotic so I ran back into the store to get help, and that was when one of our large clothes racks by the door blew out onto the road and tram tracks, just as a tram was coming. Luckily we managed to get it off the road in time! Then the rain came and just completely saturated us as we tried to bring all the stock in. Even the customers were helping us, which was amazing. It was definitely a day I won’t forget!”
“We always had so much fun at Fitzroy, it was a great team and we just laughed all day. Being in such an interesting area certainly attracted a colourful crowd to the store, you never knew who was going to come in next! But that was all part of the charm and why we loved working there. Customers would come in and tell us incredible stories about their lives and we really got to know one another. The community vibe was amazing.”
A lovely local customer gifted Fitzroy staff with a poem inspired by ISHKA
Don’t miss ISHKA Fitzroy’s massive closing down sale happening Saturday 1st July. For full event info, check out our facebook event!