Welcome to ‘ISHKA in Time’, a collection of stories that reveal the colourful history of ISHKA from across the years.
This week’s instalment coincides with ISHKA Nunawading’s birthday, so we sat down with Nunawading Store Manager and queen-of-positive-vibes Libby, to learn about her experience working in the ISHKA rainbow for over 20 years.
When does your story with ISHKA begin?
"I started way back in '94. At that time we only had 8 stores, just within Melbourne. And because we didn’t advertise back then, the only way you could get a job at ISHKA is if you were recommended by someone who already worked here, you couldn’t just apply. Thankfully, my best friend since primary school who worked here vouched for me.
Back then I worked in Camberwell, Kew, South Melbourne, Brighton, Carlton - all in one week. All the stores used to be in gorgeous Victorian terrace buildings and there was one master key for all the stores! I was at a different shop every day. We were always so happy to be there, it was a fantastic bunch of people, and still is!"
What were your first impressions of ISHKA at the time?
"It was funny for me as I had come from an admin/office background, totally different. So my first impression was just magical. Absolutely magical. And I still feel it today. I’ve now been with ISHKA for 20 years and still walk into the shop so happy each morning. When I arrive I even say hello to the shop and all the stock here. I’ll clap my hands and say “Come on now, shine brightly!” like an absolute nutter!"
We heard you left ISHKA for a little while, but ended up making your way back to us?
"After working for the stores I made the change into HR and payroll. Due to role changes in that department sadly I did have to leave ISHKA, and I ended up being away for about 6 years. I’ve been back for around 7 years now though, working back in store-land which is what I love. I worked for the Forest Hill store at first but when that closed, I came here to manage Nunawading.
ISHKA gets in your blood. You could try to leave but you just can’t!"
Do you think visitors to ISHKA get the same first impression as you did?
"They definitely do when they come to my store! To me ISHKA is like a very colourful welcome mat. You feel welcome right from the moment you enter right up until you leave. There’s a really nice communal vibe in our stores, often you’ll see customers who just start chatting to eachother and helping eachother out with products. I also get alot of stressed-out people who come in and say I just need my little ISHKA-fy. They just take their time wandering around the store, and at the end they’re like “I feel much better!” It’s so nice to see that. To me it’s a pat on the back. And it’s nice to know that the atmosphere isn’t one that only I’m picking up on.
I want everyone to feel welcome here, I think it’s important. It’s a real rapport you build with customers, and 95% of the people who come here are regular customers, they just keep coming back and I think that says alot."
You’ve had some great experiences with ISHKA over the years. What are some of your most memorable moments?
"What I love is that we’ve had numerous work experience people come in, end up getting a job and go on to manage a shop. What better progression can someone have? I don’t think you’d see that in many places.
And the customers - many loyal customers have been here since day one. And then you get generations of customers who come in, shoppers who bring in their Mum’s or relatives who become Karma Club members as well, that kind of thing. It all contributes to that family vibe - the feel is always good as long as there’s love there.
One thing I miss from back in the early years was every Christmas day, we’d all have breakfast at Michael’s (the founder of ISHKA). He would put on a big spread of food and we were all there. And he would hold Christmas parties at his place some years too. It all contributed to that feeling of family we had, it was wonderful."
What are some of your favourite ISHKA products?
"I love all the soft furnishings. I love how a splash of colour can just brighten up a room. My style is simply ‘ISHKA’, so my house looks just like my store! I also love the organic look of our teak range. All my clothes are ISHKA, all of them!
And I just love the stories behind many of our products. I love to tell a story, so if there’s something to tell about a product I’ll tell it! It’s great because then the customer has a story they can pass on about why they bought it.
It’s so funny, people will try anything just because they want an ISHKA product. They just come in and say they are looking for something particular, but it has to be ISHKA and it has to work! Everyone loves something from ISHKA."
What would you say you’ve enjoyed most about your time at ISHKA?
"I would have to say the people. ISHKA staff are awesome, and our customers have been amazing. Oh, and that I get to live and work in a rainbow!"