Vanishing Stores

Looking out the window of the bus as it travelled up Enmore Road I saw signs in the window of Marie Louise salon. This was a new window display, the kind that I dread appearing in any place that I love.

ML for sale

Almost every other store along Enmore Road has changed over the last twenty years, but there was something eternal-seeming about Marie Louise, like it was a jewel that was set into Enmore Road so tightly that it would always be there.

There’s a particular kind of sadness that comes with knowing a place you love may soon disappear. I’ve felt it for many places, from seeing houses I once lived in surrounded by fencing, awaiting demolition, to seeing Development Application signs go up on the fences of favourite buildings. It’s the sadness of bumping up against time, where time isn’t days and hours so much as shifts and changes. It’s the sadness of things in the process of disappearing.

ML for sale 2

It would have always been a shock for me to see Marie Louise for sale, but it was even more so as a few weeks earlier another of the “memorial stores” I wrote about in a previous post had signs in the window.

Koles Leasing

First Mrs Koles’ window had a “Leasing” sign in it, and then a few days later, a tarpaulin was hung up over the camera store, and another “Leasing” sign appeared. I peeked through the window behind the tarpaulin and saw that the store had been cleared. Only the cabinets remained, emptied of their cameras and expired film. The other store also had bare shelves, apart from a lone sign wishing me a Merry Christmas, and the white cash register, marooned in the centre of the counter.

Koles cash register

Cities change constantly, and places disappear no matter how significant they might be to me or to anyone else. Some places might feel like they are a part of me, but then signs go up in their windows, or they disappear without trace, and I’m reminded that they don’t belong to me after all, at least not in a physical sense.

Other businesses will replace Marie Louise or Koles, their pink and yellow exteriors might be painted over and their signs removed, but, at least for me, they will never truly disappear. I imagine these places that have persisted despite everything changing around them existing in a kind of constellation, dots here and there across Sydney. This constellation overlaps with another one, a fainter constellation, of places that once were. I let both constellations guide me.

4 Comments on “Vanishing Stores”

  1. Feng says:

    Thank you for writing this and your interview with Mr Koles elsewhere. I’ve always been fascinated by the stores whenever I’m in that area and like you I used to gaze inside, trying to figure out how it is that they have withstood the test of time for so long. I found out tonight that they were gone which led me here when I tried to find answers online. I can only hope that Mr Koles is okay or at the very least better off.

  2. Being a local photographer I’ve always had one eye on Koles whenever I’ve passed by. When the blue tarp went up I stopped by and knocked on the door. To my surprise it was answered by 2 people who were clearing out the shop for Mr Koles and putting it all in storage. When I inquired about buying the expired film (I use it in plastic camera lo-fi photography) I was gently told that the owner would expect far more than it was worth but was given a sample roll for testing (old film can deliver interesting results but occasionally it is too old for anything). It was a lovely old ‘vintage’ Kodak Ecktachrome 35mm with an expiry date of 1986 which suggested it was produced sometime in the 70s and been sitting on the lonely shelf in Ashfield for some 30 plus years! I haven’t had the heart to use it yet. I still wonder was other treasure were in that store!

    • Vanessa Berry says:

      Thanks for your comment Patrick – yes there was a lot of stock in those cabinets and it’s great to know what happened to it all – I have wondered! I was in Ashfield today and there was a piece of paper up on the “Leasing” sign saying “under negotiation” but that has been there for weeks…
      You’ll have to think up something special to do with the 1986 film – let me know if you do end up using it and what you photograph with it. I enjoyed looking at your photos on your website – the ‘urban derelict’ album is my favourite.

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