This time five years ago, Brick and Mortar Creative opened on George Street in Norwood. Without any investors or grants, it championed South Australia’s creative industries: artists could make their products in studios upstairs and then sell them directly to customers in-store. But last week they announced they’re closing for good.
“It feels like the blink of an eye and a lifetime all at once,” director Elizabeth Donaldson tells Broadsheet. “We packed a lot into those five years.”
“A lot” seems like an understatement: in its tenure, the hub housed a cafe, a retail store featuring products from more than 80 local makers, a free coworking space and a busy schedule of workshops, events and exhibitions.
All of this was built step by step as cashflow allowed, and until a couple of months ago, it was thriving. Then Covid-19 hit.
“Distancing measures will be in place for some time, and heavily impact on the viability of all four elements of Brick and Mortar – the cafe, retail store, coworking and events,” says Donaldson.
For a place so dependent on in-person interactions, it means their goal to create commercial sustainability for their creatives could no longer be achieved.
On the last weekend of May, Brick and Mortar will open for the last time for a closing-down sale. All remaining stock from the retail store – including stationery, homewares and art – will be 40 per cent off. All equipment, furniture and fixtures will also be up for sale, including the private coworking studios made from repurposed plywood shipping boxes. Ten people will be allowed in at a time, and shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags.
After doors close, handmade products from local makers will still be available online. There’ll be a directory on Brick and Mortar’s website for people to connect directly with their favourite makers and stay in touch after they close. “It’s a very hard time for those in the creative industries. Many aren’t eligible for Jobkeeper, and many retail stores who stock local makers were affected by the bushfires at the end of last year,” says Donaldson. “Now, with restrictions on events … it’s really shrunk to online for now.”
Donaldson plans to use the coming months to take a well-deserved break, rather than rushing into a new project. She’s keenly aware the economic landscape will be uncertain for some time, particularly for hospitality and retail. “The next six to eight months will be very telling,” she says. “There will be opportunities to find new ways of doing things, but for now … it’s time to take a break and think about what might be the next adventure.”
While Brick and Mortar’s time was cut short, Donaldson is proud of what she and her team created. Most of all, she enjoyed watching how the space played a role in people’s lives. “We’ve seen couples meet here; first and then second babies born; and emerging artists and makers making it big with nation-wide collaborations or finding new opportunities through us,” says Donaldson. “It’s that connection – and being able to welcome people into a creative space – that was most rewarding. And what we did best.”
Brick and Mortar Creative’s closing down sale is on Saturday 30 May to Sunday 31 May from 10am to 4pm. You can also shop online.