Retail is dead, long live digital – or so many are saying. Not for independent Paddington gift store Opus, which turned 50 this year.
Since 1968 it’s been peddling an eclectic and quirky mix of wares, including greeting cards, books, vintage Atari consoles, retro board games, bags (including by Status Anxiety), homewares (such as the bestselling Scandinavian Rivsalt, a grater for salt and pepper, and Alessi products), and a long list of lifestyle brands including Lumiera, Happy Socks, Kate Spade and Elk.
CEO Chris Tourgelis – whose parents bought the original Opus store in 1978, also on Oxford Street in Paddington (when it was 10 years old) – attributes the success of the family business to its future-proofing strategies, and the irreplaceable experience of a bricks-and-mortar store. “Shopping is social, it brings joy. People come to us for more than just our products. We work very hard to make Opus a destination,” he says.
A second store, Octopus, was opened in Newtown, and three years ago, Opus moved to a larger 500-square-metre space (at 354 Oxford Street), dedicating a second level to furniture, art and soft furnishings. Australian brands such as Glasshouse candles and Kip & Co linen take pride of place on the shelves of this colourful emporium, which Tourgelis likes to think of as a homage to the heritage of the store as a homewares shop.
“Originally Opus was a homewares store, selling furniture and lighting,” he told Broadsheet. “It evolved into selling gifts, and has now evolved into homewares again. We’ve come full circle.”
Opus has more than 10,000 products, which Tourgelis reckons is more than what most other independent stores have. His buyers are always on the hunt for interesting products – Tourgelis is particularly excited at the moment about a line of vintage-style Casio watches they’ve started stocking.
In the age of digital convenience, Tourgelis, whose occupation is described as “gift guru” on his email signature, understands “you cannot think of your business as one dimensional. People aren’t as brand loyal as they were 20 years ago and customers have to be won over every day.”
The recent launch of a reusable coffee cup, Think Cup, is just one example of his strategy to evolve his brand, incorporating elements of wholesale into the Opus business model. Other reusable products, such as water bottles, are on the way too. The opening of an e-commerce store has also helped Opus embrace the challenge of global competition.
Tourgelis “grew up in the back room of the shop”, and his dad still pops in regularly, while his sister helps him run the business day-to-day. He has fond memories of always having the latest stationery and gadgets from the store but says it’s the present he got when he was eight or nine that was the best.
“I got a little toy racing bike, and would pull it along with a string,” he says. “I don’t know why I loved it so much but I’ve never seen anything like it since.”
354 Oxford Street, Paddington
(02) 9360 4803
Mon to Wed 9am–6pm