Back to the Future

A celebration of the classic establishments that have stood the test of time.

Dex Audio

The offices and sound studios of Dex Audio look out over Macaulay Road in Kensington. I’m talking with co-founder Greg Williams, and he gestures at the footpath out the window where an impromptu crowd would gather to watch the ‘gig’ on the odd Saturday afternoon back in the 1990s. When Dex Audio was commissioned to produce an outdoor sound system, the audio engineers would have to test the rig in open space –­ so they would pull up the roller door and blast music out to the street.

Flower of Sorrento

Opened in 1975 by Joe and Vicky Aiello, Flower of Sorrento is a hidden diamond in the inner-northern Melbourne suburb of Clifton Hill. Now run by the couple's children, Flower of Sorrento has withstood the demise of similar stores in the area, remaining a favourite among locals thanks to its enduring and indispensable charm.

Tee Seng Store

One of the last remaining provision stores in Singapore, Tee Seng Store is a window into the history of the island-nation before it became the booming metropolis many of us know it as today. We paid a visit to its owner, Ang Lu Heng, to find out how his humble shop has miraculously defied the test of time.

Amalgamated Stone

Tucked away near Merri Creek, just around the corner from Assemble HQ sits Amalgamated Stone, supplier and manufacturer of all things stone for over thirty years. Dan Aulsebrook stops past for a chat with Stephen Manakis (and co-worker Lou).

Gina Basso on Rathdowne Street

Sixty-one years ago, seamstress Gina Basso left her family in Carmignano di Brenta in Northern Italy and travelled across the world to North Carlton, Victoria to be with her new husband, tailor Giacomo. Now 82, the impeccably presented Gina can still be found four days out of seven at her century-old Dürkopp Adler sewing machine—often with 27-year-old granddaughter Emily on the Janome beside her.

Casa Iberica on Johnston Street

Casa Iberica has single-handedly been providing Melbourne with hard-to-find Spanish and Portuguese smallgoods and culinary essentials since Jose and Alice de Sousa opened its doors in 1973, and it continues to flourish under the shrewd management of current owner, Jose and Alice's godson Paulo. We caught up with Paul over one of Casa Iberica's legendary sandwiches.

Charalambous Hardware on Sydney Road

Our latest 'Back to the Future' adventure takes us to 52 year-old family-run Brunswick establishment Charalambous Hardware, a much-loved Sydney Road stalwart that has gone the distance despite the emergence of competing hardware chains nearby. A regular Charalambous customer, Daniel Aulsebrook dropped by for a chat with Stan Charalambous to hear a few stories from his many years on the scene.

Sonsa of Smith Street

Few businesses on Smith Street (in Melbourne's inner city Collingwood) can boast thirty years of trading, and even fewer the status of a legend. As the neighbourhood trades in much of its grit and some of its charm, family-owned Sonsa Foods continues to prosper and provide for locals. Henrietta Zeffert visits before and after the shop's relocation to find out what changes and what remains the same.

The typewriter tale: Tom Koska

Welcome to Back to the Future, a celebration of small business heroes who remain quietly triumphant, despite urban gentrification and renewal. Self-made bosses at the helm of some of the most interesting, idiosyncratic shops and establishments we've come across. Tom fixed our typewriter. And, after a bit of coaxing, he told us of his 20-years on Elgin Street – a tale of typewriters.