“I’ve always been passionate about stories,” says Michael Saxon, owner of St Kilda bottle shop ABV Craft Merchants. His passion translates to the shelves, which feature an eclectic range of products, from local beers such as 3 Ravens and Sailors Grave, to Jamsheed wines, esoteric Italian vermouths and gin from Sweden. Everything has a story.
He also sells a range of bitters, cocktail kits, and a select few books about wine, beer and spirits. It’s the kind of shop to visit if you need to impress your friends with an unusual cocktail or a unexpected ingredient.
Bright blue painted shelves and polished wood give the space a beach-house vibe. This – and simple things such as all signage facing the door and having samples on hand for customers to try before they commit to a bottle – make the store slightly different to its competitors.
“I’ve spent the last 15 years in big business, about half of that time in retail,” Saxon says. “When it came time for me to do something different, rather than have something nice and sensible, I went with something super-duper crazy; run away with the circus.”
While Saxon has never worked hospitality, after years of immersing himself in Melbourne’s cocktail and drinks scene as a customer, he knew this is what he wanted to do. “Let’s just say I’ve propped up a few bars,” he says.
ABV is the the third bottle shop to inhabit this space, between The Local Taphouse and Uncle. The first attempt was from the Taphouse team. When that didn’t work out, Blackhearts and Sparrows took over in late 2013. Saxon’s not phased by the previous big names that haven’t really made the shop work.
“We’re going to be the best we can be at creating an accessible space where people can buy the best craft products by region, season and style, and we’re going to have an awesome time doing it,” he says.
Saxon will also soon start Monday Night Craftiness events, which he says will be education and tasting sessions that are slightly “more involved” than most. Expect chefs, brewers and winemakers to share their stories while you taste their products.
ABV Craft Merchants
186 Carlisle Street, St Kilda
(03) 9041 0357
Wed to Sat 11am–10pm