As part of the Queen Victoria Market's $250 million renewal, String Bean Alley has had a makeover; 26 independent traders (including 12 new ones) have set up shop in remodelled shipping containers.

The re-worked String Bean Alley is one of the renewal’s first completed upgrades. Originally constructed in 1936 for the market’s pea and bean merchants (hence the name), String Bean Alley has established itself as a hub for Queen Vic Market’s local artisans, producers and collectors.

One of the newcomers to the alley is Retro Mamma. It sells original film cameras, antique cufflinks and jewellery, vintage postcards, and old family photographs from bygone eras.

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“We just started it as a hobby and it’s ended up as my job,” says Mary Jones, who started the business with her husband, David.

Specialising in selling old family photographs and slides, Mary says that Retro Mamma gets diverse reactions from passers-by.

“Some of them think it’s a bit strange that we are selling other people’s photographs,” she says, laughing. But others, she says, are happy to see they’re giving new lives to objects that could otherwise be lost.

Jones says she’s excited to bump her stall into the renewed String Bean Alley.

“I love the market and the atmosphere,” she says. “You meet people from everywhere, all walks of life.”

Returning traders include Made In Japan, which has sold imported Japanese tableware and homewares for more than 25 years, and Ronnie Z and the Fabulous Juice, which serves fresh juices and acai bowls from a kitsch 1960s caravan.

Established on an old cemetery in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market has gradually sprawled its way across a massive seven hectares of Melbourne’s inner city. Today it’s the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, and receives more than nine million visitors annually. Other parts of the wider market renewal include upgrades for traders, a new pedestrian plaza, a 500-space underground car park, and a new visitor information hub.

You can access String Bean Alley from Queen and Peel streets, or from the main Queen Victoria Market car park. Find out more about the renewal here.

Fri & Sat 8am–3pm
Sun 9am–4pm