Tucked away behind the Norwood Town Hall, Brick + Mortar is unassuming until you step inside and wonder how you could have ever missed it.
Once a dated senior citizens club, the double-storey building is now magnificently contemporary with natural light streaming in through the vast window facade overlooking George Street. Pine surfaces complement the white walls adorned with colourful local artworks amidst an open plan cafe on the ground floor, while the upper storey boasts an airy workspace designed to home a versatile retail hub. The stunning space is the embodiment of Elizabeth Donaldson’s vision to provide Adelaide creatives with an accessible and viable way to establish their retail presence. As well as offering budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote their products and services in the form of a ‘capsule store’ or pop-up stall, Brick+Mortar also hosts a variety of workshops and events for the general public that in turn help to support the artists who run them. “This space is designed to offer creatives the chance for professional development in a collaborative environment,” says Donaldson. “The concept of a capsule store also means that creatives who choose to take part don’t necessarily need a huge range of stock to begin with.” The space accommodates eight to nine creative residents and two exhibitors at one time, with the floor plan and curated line-up changing every two to four weeks. The downstairs area is reserved for short-term pop-up stalls with a maximum four-week lease, while leases for upstairs capsule stores can range from four weeks to 12 months. Inspired by the concept of capsule hotels in Tokyo, it is evident to see that the layout and furnishings of this fresh retail space are innovative and impeccably designed. The display boxes allocated to stallholders are cleverly constructed of aluminum shipping containers with a pine exterior, repurposed to provide flexible and portable options for showcasing temporary retail projects in the building. The upstairs area is perhaps even more impressive — larger variations of the shipping container displays stand in a line, doubling as optional studio spaces complete with viewing windows and inbuilt shelving. Their raw simplicity enables the stallholder to personalise its appearance to their taste while keeping the overall theme consistent and neat. Similarly, the legs of the cafe tables are easily detachable, allowing the tabletops to be conveniently stacked away if a large function space is needed, in which the cafe counter used for preparing coffee and meals during the day transforms into a licensed bar. If Brick+Mortar were to be described in a word, it would definitely be ‘versatile’. Since its launch in May, Brick+Mortar has fostered a strong sense of community among creatives and customers alike. Resident collaborations are encouraged – given the communal layout of the display boxes and studios, which represents the character Donaldson was aiming for in establishing the space. “Seeing artists exchange and build upon each other’s ideas has been fantastic. For example, at the moment we have resident furniture designer Robyn Wood working with a weaver on a giant light installation that will be displayed upstairs — usually you wouldn’t expect two people from such different fields to work together, but this space enables creatives to get these conversations going, which has been one of the best things about it so far.” While retail spaces at Brick+Mortar are substantially booked through until the end of the year, Donaldson is constantly seeking new people who can contribute their unique flair to the business to keep it fresh and inspiring. The multifunctional and hospitable atmosphere of Brick+Mortar was the driving force behind Donaldson’s conception for the space. Its location in Norwood was a calculated decision to enable residents of the suburbs to build creative communities near their homes, as opposed to opening it in the CBD where the majority of Adelaide creative initiatives are based. “Brick+Mortar is a place to have a coffee where there is always something new going on,” says Donaldson. “It’s a way to engage with creativity in an accessible and fun way that also ties in with everyday life. We encourage people to just nip around the corner from their house and learn something new in a workshop.” With a fully-equipped children’s play area and free WiFi, the space boasts accessibility for families and students alike. Similarly, the wares for sale in pop-up stores vary in price, catering for a range of demographics. For these reasons, Donaldson has high hopes for the future of Brick+Mortar. “Word of mouth has been spreading about this space for the past couple of months. People will drop by for a coffee and come back a week later with their friends because they liked it so much, and our location means we get a decent amount of newcomers due to foot traffic.” The replicable and scaleable nature of the space means that if further interest is sparked across Adelaide in future years, Brick+Mortar could be looking at opening similar spaces in other suburbs. At the moment, Brick+Mortar is home to an array of exciting local collections. Innovative florists and designers Austin Bloom and a.nouk have teamed up to create a stunning architectural installation featuring modern vessels made of copper and steel juxtaposed with lush greenery. Nadine, founder of Nzuri Organics, offers a wide range of lovingly hand-crafted vegan skincare products at very affordable prices, while artist Fruzsi Kenez has an impressive store showcasing her unique handpainted illustrations in the form of colourful prints, tote bags and badges. Brick+Mortar is an excellent platform for emerging entrepreneurs — head on down to grab a coffee and immerse yourself in the communal atmosphere of this up-and-coming retail hub. Brick+Mortar Creative Retail Hub Opening hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 8am-4:30pm (9pm on Thursday) (stores open from 10am) Sunday: 11am-3pm brickandmortarcreative.com.au
Photos: Hugh Martin