Michelle Davies is proudly old school. Her store, Davies & Son, in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton, has an eclectic, nostalgic feel thanks to the vintage pieces that have been repurposed into shop fittings and the ‘know your neighbours’ approach Davies has to running a business.
“Like our name suggests, we like the ‘old school’ way of doing business in a local community. Getting to know the locals and supporting our local community,” Davies says.
“The store is very colourful and has a nostalgic feel, due in part to the music we play and the array of vintage furniture pieces we use as shop fittings. From 1950s church pews, dressing tables and desks to refurbished kitchen cabinets. Some of our walls are in turquoise, our signature colour, and the light shades are hand painted.”
Davies & Son isn’t Davies’ first foray into retail. The seasoned businesswoman, who also happens to be a single mum, previously ran Melbourne stores It and Kleen Design, which stocked a range of imported designer homewares and locally made products.
Having always been passionate about supporting local makers, inspired by a stint at art school and her grandfather who was an artist, when Davies opened her latest store in 2011 the aim was to showcase Australian-made and designed gifts and homewares in a colourful and quirky space.
This proved so successful that three years after opening Davies had outgrown her original premises and relocated to a larger store, with more room to display all the amazing local artists she had discovered.
Davies & Son is full to the brim with products including soaps from Est Australia, Emily Green jewellery, Julie White scarves and socks, Uimi knitted baby blankets and scarves, Otto and Spike scarves and picnic blankets, KeepCup, Robert Gordon pottery, Basil Bangs beach umbrellas, and many more, which Davies is always adding to.
“I am on a constant lookout for new designers and makers. I go to markets and trade fairs, go through magazines and we also get approached [to stock new ranges].”
With such a varied range of products and a relatively small space to play with, Davies says it’s important that her displays engage customers without overwhelming them.
“Visual merchandising is key. You need to present items in a way that complements, not clutters or overwhelms. The process of creating our displays is a very organic one, starting with a rough idea and working on it and tweaking as it evolves.”
In keeping with her old school approach, Davies loves spending her days in the store and helping customers any way she can. Davies & Son offers free gift wrapping and layby, and staff are always happy to try and source an item for a customer. “I am a people person and it’s a pleasure to work with such happy customers. I love sourcing and unpacking new deliveries—it’s like Christmas to me.”
While juggling the shop and being a single mum is a challenge, as is educating consumers about the price difference between Australian-made items and those mass produced offshore, Davies has big plans for the future. She intends to produce some of her own ranges and says she would love more space or perhaps even a second store.
Whatever happens, Davies is well equipped to deal with the ups and downs of retail, as she can always fall back on the lessons she has learnt during her years in the industry: “You can’t be all things to all people—be true to yourself and your beliefs and act with integrity, and it shines through.”