May 5, 2021 | Community, Retail

Institutions of Brunswick

Author: Sophie Berrill

Illustrator: Licenciado Dominguez

Brunswick’s character is a sum of many parts. Its residents, their cultures, the history, a high volume of food spots and pubs, heritage buildings, small businesses, local art, vibrant main drags and a lot of wedding dress stores.

What stands out among all of this in our collective imagination are the great Institutions of Brunswick. By institutions, we mean the businesses that have been so successful over their life spans, they are deeply entangled in Brunswick’s identity. They both serve and represent us. Maybe you know them (or maybe they’re the only thing you’ve heard about Brunswick): A1 Bakery, Savers, Mediterranean Wholesalers, CERES, Dejour Jeans and even more emerging hometown heroes.

A1 Bakery - Brunswick Daily

A1 on Sydney Rd has become a beacon and an Institution for locals and visitors. Source: A1 Instagram.

Brunswick is rich with these beacons that attract locals and visitors alike. Their products and services are unique and top-grade, from long aisles of Italian imports, to a pair of jeans personalised to fit every inch of your lower half. 

Dejour Jeans- Brunswick Daily

A typical view of Dejour Jeans long line of personalised jeans seekers. Source: Brunswick Daily

Even just walking into these places without buying anything is an experience in itself. As you would expect, some take up long, wide and high-ceilinged buildings fit for an institution. But other, newer locations are just a counter, a waft of fresh food and a long line out the door. Nearly all are humbly decorated with a focus on the raw quality of the product they serve. And the dust hardly settles before it’s all taken from the shelves.

These institutions are so familiar we use them as landmarks to orient ourselves around the suburb. How often have you used these places to let a friend know where to meet?

“I’m just opposite Dejour.”

“Turn right after Alasya’s.”

“It’s just a block down from The Cornish.”

Catering to different demographics, these institutions bring people out onto the streets of Brunswick and keep it feeling alive. Youthful hipsters walk down Sydney Road and Lygon St carrying secondhand finds under their arms, families balance stacked white boxes full of pastries, and groups of elderly friends circle around tables outside for a coffee on a sunny morning.

Sydney Road - Brunswick Daily

Sydney Road is home to many of the icons entangled in Brunswick’s identity. Source: Sydney Road Brunswick’s Instagram

Most of Brunswick’s establishments really are just popular with everyone, passing a love for quality goods down through generations. In many cases, these institutions have weathered gentrification. They maintain lasting, important cultural hubs whose value runs deeper than their tasty takeaway. All of these businesses are still bearing the new challenges of COVID-19—and thank goodness they have survived.

No one wants to return to their old haunt to find it has dramatically changed. When institutions remain, this provides structure and stability in a place and makes people feel at ease. When they shut down, it’s heartbreaking . Bustling stores that looked after us for so long, whether that was for organic produce or a heady Sunday beer, become memories of a special era. New generations get to hear about, but never experience, their legacies.

In our new Institutions of Brunswick series, Brunswick Daily will recognise those establishments that have done something special and are still standing because of it. These institutions don’t just show us our history, they teach important lessons to new businesses who dream of similar success, status and longevity.

We’ll ask them their business secrets, why they settled in Brunswick and the changes they’ve witnessed in this suburb.

Get to know the places you thought you knew so well, or the institutions you have yet to experience.

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