From Ghetto to Glamour
Bondi Beach’s Gould Street has recently undergone a facelift. Like of all of Bondi, it’s changing faster than a Facebook feed. Go back 20 years and Gould Street was nothing but a cop shop, a health food store and self-serve laundromat. Today Bondi is a little less Cali-health and little more blood pressure inducing. Property prices are sky-high and asking rents are pretty stiff for shop owners.
Bondi’s Gould Street has become the place of fake tans, white smiles and conspicuous consumption. Bondi has followed the classic gentrification cycle by moving from; ghetto to working class. Boho, to yuppie. And now from young professional to somewhere, between “family friendly village” and “playground of the super rich”. On any given Sunday you don’t have to look far to see a porn star and a wanna be drug dealer walking arm in arm with a small dog tucked into a Gucci handbag. Or a local family, out on their bikes taking photos of the water with their sun hats on. The major work on Gould Street has all been done between Beach Road and Hall Street.
You can buy bagels and Oreo topped doughnuts, or pick up cold pressed juice and customise a Hawaiian poke bowl. It’s posh stores and smart cars for as far as the eye can see, but back in 1999 when George Pompei set up his Italian restaurant, his site had a pretty desolate outlook.
“There was an empty paddock across the road with a cyclone wire fence,” he laughs. “Back then Campbell Parade was full of derelict buildings and fast food joints. We were looking for a site in Bondi and knew we had to be removed from that. There was the Bondi Hotel, The Church was already there and Hurricanes of course, but there weren’t as many shops on the street itself. Gould Street has changed remarkably,” he says.
George is right. Last year Gould Street welcomed a slew of hot new retail outlets including; Jac + Jack, Totem Road, Venroy, Playa and Saturdays NYC. But Tuchuzy the womens boutique came first, adding to their original Burwood site with their Bondi boutique in the mid nineties. Then, as per usual, Aesop was an early mover in 2011, with a fit-out designed by Zenta Tanaka, an architect from Melbourne. At the end of 2016 the ANZ bank development was finally finished on the corner of Gould and Hall.
Now on Gould Street locals have men’s labels like Huffer and Orelear Brown to choose from, and the girls have Love Stories lingerie and Playa – the latter being a swish concept store by Melbournite jewellery designer Lucy Folk. Folk moved to Sydney for the lifestyle late last year and created her pastel look with interior designer Tamsin Johnson. She used local makers Fred Ganim and Steven Clark of Den-Holm to help complete the shop. A few doors down Lisa Dempsey and Jacqueline Hunt asked oh-so-hot-right-now architect George Livissianis to create their paired back store, by working with furniture maker Jonathan Ingram. The street started looking pretty glam.
Aya Larkin who is lead singer of the band Skunkhour and an operational owner of The Ravesi’s Hotel, says he’s been watching the changes in the area since he was a boy in Charing Cross. He remembers a time where Bondi was a lot heavier, when it was steadfastly working class and much more tribal. It was full of Kiwis, Maoris, junkies, surfers and activists. Back then Orthodox Jews and the Greeks were the predominant dollop of multiculturalism. What united people he says was the beautiful horseshoe shaped bay and of course their football teams.
“In the 90’s a lot of the cool kids from Darlinghurst started to move into Bondi, and they created the little Bohemian pockets. You know how it tends to work from there?” says Aya. “The property developments in Bondi have really coincided with profound change in the Sydney hospitality scene in the last 10 years. It has culminated in the Pacific down the road here and the Adina up the road. “The people that you have got coming in here now, are far more informed and discretionary in the ways that they want to spend their leisure time and their income,” says Aya.
George Pompei agrees the people on the street now mark the most significant difference that has occurred in the last 17 – 18 years. “It has happened very slowly and it is hard for us to see clearly because we are so immersed in it,” he says.
“But when we first set up Pompei’s in 1999 there were still a lot of homeless people sleeping in the doorways. The Church across the road was there to provide free food, and it still does offer free lunches to those who need it. There was the homeless shelter up the road on Roscoe Street for people down on their luck and we would sometimes give them food or coffee. But now I guess there’s a bit more of a contrast, when you have multi-million dollar apartments and expensive cars right there too,” Pompei says.
“What has been great for us, is that with all the new retail and restaurants opening, it just brings more people to the area,” he says.
Aya agrees that the revitalisation of the Ravesi’s brand is designed to connect discerning locals to a great quality pub. It has also been done to help local connect to the beautiful art deco history of the hotel and Bondi as a beach town. He wants Bondi to have a thriving night life and for Ravesi’s to be part of that typical night time walk locals make around the suburb.
With new retail and hospitality openings like Drake, Bondi is now shifting into a major third gear.
The unveiling of the Pacific, two years ago, is a major mixed use development backing onto Gould Street. Woolworths, Macelleria and QT Hotel are all open and owners are in the final stages of soliciting good retail operators to the ground floor area.
Later this year Maurizio Terzini of Icebergs fame will open something near the corner of Curlewis and Campbell. Locals hope his Bondi Public Bar will pick up where nightlife spots like Canteen and White Revolver left off. Injecting reasons to stay and play instead of making a mass exodus to Double Bay. Locals say more high quality tapas and evening bars are needed to to plug the gaps in the long lost strip bookended by the Icebergs Private club and North Bondi RSL.
Tamarama local Don Garvan says opening his sustainable furniture store on Gould Street was done to capture local Bondi residents setting up homes in the area. “The Totem Road pop-up is glamorous, but unpretentious. The range encourages people to think about sustainability and how their actions have an impact on the planet,” he says. “This Bondi pop up space captures a relaxed, yet sophisticated lifestyle which our clients find aspirational and attractive,” Garvan says. Despite a slow start his store is now pumping with local house wives and homemakers keen on eco chic. His success on Gould Street has propelled him to open an even bigger permanent store in the heart of Paddington.
Indeed a lot of the fun about Bondi now is in its retail offering. Tiny boutiques that would have once had a strong presence on Oxford Street, have turned up on Gould Street. The Westfield-isation of Sydney’s east from Bondi Junction to Market Street, CBD has indirectly created a demand in locals for small scale boutiques in close proximity to the beach, their home and good food.
Pompei says the vibe on his street has ‘never been better’. “With our immediate neighbours like Hurricanes, Drake and Sonoma we all frequent each other’s businesses and talk to one another all the time. If someone needs some change or someone is missing an ingredient, we all help each other out and that is the way it should be,” says Pompeii.
While the raw ingredients might be changing in Bondi it seems the formula for success is as old as the hills. Wherever there’s a solid mix of good human scale retail, hospitality, residential, leisure and nightlife development – people will turn up to spend their money and hopefully have the time of their life.