My mission that morning was to find something special and I too, never remotely ‘cutting edge’, knew the place to go.
You see, one of the four ultra-special people in my life was about to turn six. I adore all of them – they bring their zing and gloss to my retirement – and who says blood is thicker than water. The birthday girl and her three cousins – Olivia, Brynner and Tobias are all different, as should be, but three sets of parents are working hard to make their childhoods magic kingdoms of the mind. Tessa Tiger’s mother and father have surrounded her with books, Doctor Who and Harry Potter as she finds her own fantastical realms with My Little Pony and Andy Griffiths. That I am included in her world; in their worlds, is a source of joy. I wanted something special for my precious Tess that morning – not because she expected it, but because I love doing it. She gives me more than I could possibly give her in return. They all do.
When the fire hit it felt the soul had been taken out of the city. For months after, even years, the CBD floundered. The retailers around the smouldering ruins, as well as later with the gaping hole, struggled – a few moved, some stuck it out and others shut up shop completely. With that and heavy competition from developments on the outskirts and in the suburbs, it was feared the life would be drained out of Hobart’s only just beating heart.
Myer management made all the right noises after the conflagration almost wiped out their store, but the fear was always present that they would cut and run. They didn’t. A collective sigh was released when they formally announced they would rebuild bigger and better than ever, doing their best to remain trading whilst that occurred. They have stayed true to that course, despite a severe flooding during the construction period and despite their own brand’s worsening bottom line. When there’s much to dislike about our country’s mega-profit driven corporate sector, Myer locally have displayed something that goes beyond screwing the public for every cent.
They have reopened in stages and that morning was the first time I’d have the whole shebang at my disposal. I knew children’s wear was on the top floor and that was the way I was preparing to head as I entered the store, not quite in the rush Laura McGeoch was on her morning before the nuptials. And at the end of that little journey, up the escalators, I’d be making a small vow to myself.
In truth, before the fire, the CBD of Hobart was tired. Myer and the Cat and Fiddle Arcade, with its little performance on the hour every hour, was the fulcrum, but it was worn and in need of a little loving. Fast forward to today, with the new department store and the arcade completely refurbished, there’s a bit of big city pizzazz in the air. Flanked on one side by Centrepoint, also undergoing jazzing up, as well as newish Wellington Court on the other, the heart and soul has returned. And, unbeknown to me before I entered Myer, something else was happening.
What I first observed was that the ground floor was just about empty of customers, mirroring Ms McGeoch’s experience in the Melbourne sister store. I was a tad stunned by that, but I was soon to discover why. Out the back I could see, even from a distance, that there was, beyond the reopened entrance to the arcade, a brace of mint-new stores. I deviated to investigate One of these newbies, Mecca Maxima, was sucking the life out of Myer and most of the outlets around it. At its Murray Street entrance the punters, mainly young women each toting a large pink gift bag, were lined up down the block and around the corner. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of eager shoppers were patiently waiting their turn to be guided in by the contingent of security hired for the occasion. I was quite mildly gobsmacked. Mainland big city retail glamour had come to our little city.
I had a quick squiz at the other new kids on the block before making my way to my destination. Up there, to start with, it was like a graveyard too.
Should I feel self-conscious, in this era of man-blaming, rifling through racks of young girls’ clothing? Maybe, but I love it. That I have two stunningly gorgeous female beings to select attire for, to me, is bliss. If any askance glances are cast my way I am oblivious and couldn’t give a toss. I was on a mission for Tessa Tiger and I was wholly immune. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything to my taste on the generous number of sale racks, but, as I am no cheapskate when it comes to my granddaughters, I proceeded on to the other stock. I found two garments I hoped she’d love, so I approached the counter. Whilst I had been engaged making my selections some other customers had actually arrived and there were a couple of them being attended to by staff, a male and a gorgeous Myer lady in ‘…trademark black and white.’ I’m not ashamed to say I was a tad disappointed when it was the guy who was ready for me first, but the dapper young gentleman was absolutely lovely. He apologised for my wait, even though it’d only been a minute or so and chatted with me while he processed my purchases. When I passed over my Myer card I explained to him that I had some queries about its benefits and that I didn’t seem to have had any of the expected communication from the store regarding my points tally. He tried to discover what what amiss without success. He then wrote down a number for me that would avoid the oxymoron that is dialing up customer service. Shortly after arrival back home my problem was quickly sorted as a result. I was impressed by him as I have always been by the staff both here and across in Yarra City. He made my day and was the cause of my self-promise to become a more regular shopper there.
Hobart’s town centre is now a happening place with its centrepiece in situ and I too keep my fingers crossed for the struggling Myer, just as Laura McG does, for it kept its faith in and with Hobart. Now that, because of the Mona effect, tourists are flooding in all year round and with the increase in the uni student presence there, it is a wonderful place to people watch, let alone do anything else.
Buying for my grandchildren, as well as Leigh’s, is an indulgence, I know – but, really I’m only indulging myself. I just adore doing it. And I know Tess will love her outfits because they come from her Poppy. Gee life’s good.