It runs less than a kilometre, but Gertrude Street embodies a lot of what we love about this city. Creative, surprising, talented and independent; as Melbourne has changed, so has Gertrude. We speak to two people who help keep the strip fed; one who embodies its arty flair; and the man who’s provided its soundtrack for more than a decade.

Anthony Brem, owner, Archie’s All Day

Broadsheet: How long have you been on Gertrude Street?
Anthony Brem: We opened at the very end of March this year and it’s been amazing for us. It’s been really well received since day one. It’s just been pumping.

BS: What excites you about running a business here?
AB: I think it’s a good mix of offerings, whether it’s hospitality or retail, there’s a really nice quality to the area. There’s a good authenticity.

BS: Have you had much interaction with other businesses on the street?
AB: The local traders are really welcoming. People who run businesses around here are hands-on, independent-style traders. There’s a great community feel – the restaurant traders here really support each other.

BS: How does the street and its community influence what you do?
AB: We’ve really been welcomed here, and been supportive of the local community. We’ve run fundraisers for Maysar over the road, which is an Aboriginal youth sport organisation. The street has a great community feeling, even though it’s so close to the city.

BS: Do you find your customers come to Gertrude Street because it’s a destination, or are they just passing through?
AB: We get both types of people coming through. I find there’s a lot of people from around Melbourne coming here because it’s a destination. But because it’s a good mix of shops around here, we pick up quite a few people just walking past. I see regulars who go to both Archie’s and Bluebird Espresso, my cafe on Johnston Street.

BS: What makes Gertrude Street unique?
AB: It’s lovely, open, clean and green. The people around here are generally really happy and that helps us serve with positivity. There have been feature corners that have been changed, and shops have come and gone. The rents are obviously expensive, but not too expensive for an independent business to go in and trade there.

Jesse Gerner, head chef and owner, Añada

BS: How long have you been on Gertrude Street?
Jesse Gerner: I took the space eight years ago and we’ve been operating since. We actually used to live upstairs from the restaurant. I think I did three weeks without leaving the building, in the early days. We’ve seen the ebb and flow of the street over time.

BS: How have you seen the street change?
JG: I really love the street. When we were first here, there were a few more junkies, but there’s always been an awesome retail scene with high-end fashion and quirky gifts. Manfax Hardware used to be a funny hub on the street (before they moved down to Smith Street). When you’d pop in for some screws and masking tape for the business, you’d hear all the gossip of the street. But there’s a good balance of shops at the moment with retail, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Then there’s the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, the gallery openings – the mix of it all is right.

BS: How does the street and its community influence what you do?
JG: We’ve always supported the street. We’ve made food for the opening and closing of the projection festivals and worked with the art gallery across the road a few times. There’s a huge array of people and personas, and everyone’s really friendly. We’ve always wanted to make sure we look after the local guys that eat here every week. You get an awesome mix of diners. We had Marco Pierre White come in eight times in three weeks.

BS: Are customers mostly passing through or is Gertrude Street a destination?
JG: It’s a mix. We have a huge local crew and we have people that come to Añada a lot who live close by. And then we have people coming in from elsewhere. I think since Andrew McConnell took the Builders Arms, there have been more people travelling from the south side of the city to have a look.

BS: What do you love about working there?
JG: It’s an awesome community. I’ve got two other restaurants – one in the city and one in North Carlton, all very different places. But there’s a soft spot in my heart for Gertrude Street. Añada was my first restaurant and I love going to it because there’s a good mob of people around. And it doesn’t feel like you’re only a stone’s throw from the city – it’s like its own little pocket.

Chris Gill, owner of Northside Records

BS: What led you to Gertrude Street?
Chris Gill: Back then? Because it was cheap and funky. When I started, all the stores down the street were various Turkish places, cafes and the like. I used to get all the old guys to go to Turkey to buy records for me. Ali the fridge guy down the road is still holding it down.

BS: What excites you about running a business on Gertrude Street?
CG: We’re keeping Fitzroy funky. It’s always been a centre of good culture. We aim to keep it that way. Let’s just say, I still haven’t sold a Beatles record in 13 years, and I don’t plan to.

BS: How does the street and its community influence what you do?
CG: I like that Archie Roach’s record, Charcoal Lane, was written here. It’s a tight-knit community and I’ve worked in the area for nearly 25 years, so I know a lot of the people here. It’s a community that’s growing. Northside is the church of soul music – people come to pray. We have a super sweet soul community, and we support soul music as much as possible. We have events, musicians play, bands play, signings, in-store appearances.

BS: What changes have you seen in the area?
CG: The rent prices have gone up a lot and that reflects a change in the types of stores that can afford that. But the rain still runs down the street in the same way. Unfortunately there are no other funk record stores opening up on Gertrude Street, which would be the case in a perfect world. But we live in hope.

BS: Do you find your customers come to Gertrude Street because it’s a destination or are they just passing through?
CG: Customers come to the store because it’s a destination. They involuntarily moonwalk and find themselves here.

Jade Brockley, retail supervisor at Mud Australia

BS: What excites you about running a business on Gertrude Street?
Jade Brockley: There’s an eclectic collection of people here – it’s a tourist destination but there’s more of a local feel. It’s nice to walk down and visit all the shop owners. It’s not a place to come to and leave, it’s where you walk down and bump into someone. Everyone in the shops is really friendly, so there’s that community aspect.

BS: How has it changed since you’ve been here?
JB: There’s obviously a lot of development on Smith Street and Gertrude Street. It’s the nature of progress, as they say. It’s growing and getting bigger and right now, it feels like it’s in a transition phase.

BS: How does the street and its community influence what you do?
JB: I think there are a lot of stores on the street, new and old, but there’s that respect maintained for the street. New businesses and people come in wanting to align with that existing landscape rather than coming in to change it. We’ve been involved with Gertrude Contemporary, the Gertrude Street Projection Festival – it’s really important for us to keep it fun for people.

BS: What do you love most about the street?
JB: It’s got character. Local people dress really amazingly, local businesses, people from the hospital nearby, it’s diverse.

This article is presented by Kalex.