‘We like to think of the Old Brisbane Arcade as a one stop shopping place,’ says Krysti Bennett of Inspire Yourself and Your Home. ‘You can buy a card and a beautiful gift, have your lunch and get your shoes fixed - and buy new ones!’
Once Launceston’s first hotel, the Old Brisbane Arcade now beckons customers in to a community of the city’s most long-lived and loved shops – each with a warm Winter welcome.
Three welcoming rooms in Krysti’s giftware boutique keep Launceston’s houses ambient through the winter with candles and diffusers and everything you need to snuggle. Celebrating the shop’s tenth birthday, Krysti has added an ‘everything for baby’ room, and has tots swaddled in Australian wool wraps, and mums in Merino scarves and ponchos. Even lips can be luscious – and vegan too – with natural lip glosses from Byron Bay.
The arcade is a family affair, with Krysti’s mother Cheryl Campbell across the way in The Card Castle. Cheryl has a passion for meeting the public, and has made her card emporium a centre for top quality service and ever-changing stock. She’s can usually be found walking the floor and diligently serving her loyal customer base in person. Cards for all seasons can be found, colourful glassware and European jewellery too, and to Cheryl the warmth of the welcome is every bit as important as the stylish displays in the bay windows onto the arcade.
Shop and shoes are a vocation for owner Dianne Sheehan, who worked there as a student – and long harboured a desire to own it one day. Twenty years later and in the first year of ownership, regulars say she brings femininity to the selection of high-end, top quality European women’s footwear. This winter is ‘all about the ankle boot,’ she says, with lots of greys and greens, and the faux-fur lined boots that European shoe makers do so well –a natural fit in the cool Tasmanian winter wardrobe.
The man with the smallest shop and the driest wit in the arcade uses both to great effect, cutting keys, engraving dog tags and repairing footwear. ‘Dogs are my best friend,’ says Jerry Eilander, ‘because they chew shoes and lose their tags.’ Encouraged to change career direction by wife Renee, he bought the business three years ago and has never looked back. Advice for winter? ‘Waterproof your shoes, bring ‘em in and have ‘em fixed!’
The arcade’s inner courtyard is a leafy sun trap even in winter and the perfect place for lunch. Some Launcestonians hark back to when a tiny black cart sold hot potatoes there for 25 years. That was owned by the mother of sisters Monica Pedley and Vanessa Baker, who share the present day Perfect Potatoes. Thankful to be inside the arcade for seven years now, they turn the humble Tasmanian spud into perpetually popular winter warmers smothered in garlic butter, sour cream cheese and bacon, or chilli butter for some proper heat.
Not many arcades boast a working artist’s studio, but this one does. The old hotel building’s first floor lounge is now described by Tasmanian artist Leonie Duff as ‘a world apart’. With elegant old rooms, constant south facing light loved by artists and a balcony overlooking Brisbane Street once graced by royalty, it’s the perfect place. Collections of artefacts for still life painting add to the rich atmosphere. A five –time finalist in the Glover Prize, Leonie runs classes for everyone from all walks of life, in sketching, portraiture, still life and landscapes.
– By Fiona Stocker