After nearly eight years in this amazing space in Prahran, Melbourne's insatiable appetite for development has finally caught up with us. Early next year, the wrecking ball is due to come down on this lovely building. We will be sad to see it gone but with loss comes opportunity.
The store will continue to operate from Grattan Street, Prahran, until the demolition team moves in. In the meantime we are looking at a number of options for spaces in Melbourne to move to and will keep you updated as soon as we lock something in.
What we can confirm, however, is that we have found a permanent home for the workshop. This will be the first time in the history of the business where the workshop and retail store will be separate. Due to the ever-increasing cost of property in Melbourne and the diminishing number of industrial buildings (read: Melbourne's insatiable appetite for apartment development), finding a home that could house 200+ square metres of workshop space was inequitable. We love Melbourne, but damn, she's got expensive taste.
This led us to broaden the search in trying to find some Champagne on a beer budget. The question was, where could we find a place that we would want to call home? It couldn't be some industrial estate filled with concrete tilt-panel buildings; soulless and uninspiring. We wanted something much more than that for our little endeavour. Imagine another big old red brick building, filled with character and history. One where we weren't working on top of each other and with a little room to grow and one that we wouldn't be forced to move out of. In other words, a permanent home.
It just so happens that all of this was just down the road from where we live, right under our noses in one of Victoria's biggest regional cities.
Helloooo Ballarat. You're looking mighty fine today.
This is the Gun Cotton complex, located a few kilometres south-west of Ballarat Central. It was built in the 1940s by Australian and American soldiers stationed in Ballarat on R&R during WWII. It was a big deal in its day for Ballarat and today it is a big deal for us.
Over the next couple of months we will be working on fitting the warehouse out; stay tuned for updates on how this is going.
In August we will making the move up the Western Highway with all our machinery, leather and tools in tow. We will aim to keep the shop space open in Melbourne two days a week (Friday 10-5 and Saturday 10-4) during August with things hopefully back to normal by September. We have a lot of work to do between now and then, so we will do our best to keep you all updated with all of the happenings and try to get through your orders without too much delay. Exciting and scary times ahead.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GUN COTTON MILL......
In 1940 when Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the building of a Gun Cotton Complex in Ballarat, it made front page news.
"Ballarat received its greatest industrial benefit of the century when, in December 1940, for strategic reasons, the Commonwealth government began the construction of a £100,000 gun-cotton factory near the cattle yards."
The decision was part of a strategic initiative to become independent based on the British shield in Asia crumbling. Menzies recognised that supplies of weapons and aircraft from Britain would be interrupted and the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 reinforced the threat of supplies not reaching Australia for its own defence.
"It was well away from the coast and could serve both Melbourne and Adelaide munitions works by rail. Five hundred jobs were created; at the same time Ballarat's power supplies were upgraded by a connection to the main SEC grid, and £37,000 was spent to enlarge and extend the water main." There was also a dedicated train line set up to the facility.
Gun cotton is an explosive nitrocellulose, which is an inherently unstable compound that burns by decomposing rapidly forming hot gases. It superseded black gun powder. The building therefore needed to be remarkably robust to withstand the potential threat of its production and the external threat of bombing. Slightly over-engineered for shoemaking, perhaps, but reassuring nonetheless.
After the war, gun cotton was no longer required and the building was taken over by the Ballarat Paper Mill in 1946.
For a number of years the building has sat idle until recently when it was subdivided and is now earmarked by Ballarat Council to become a creative manufacturing hub. We are excited to be writing the next chapter in the history of the Gun Cotton complex.