Not so long ago, the tram Route 86 from Bourke Street to Bundoora was considered a bit grimy. The truth is, Smith Street, High Street and – increasingly – Plenty Road are now hubs for independent, innovative stores, galleries, bars and cafes. We love our little neck of the woods! So we want to share with you all of our favourite stops and encourage you all to get behind the small, local businesses that make these streets what they are this Christmas. And if you can #christmasroute86 in any social media posts, that would be even better. Here at The Goodness Bureau, our motto is “Let’s celebrate local this festive season!!!”
And now, at last, we come to our neck of the woods! We like to think of Thornbury as the slightly rebellious younger sibling of Northcote. Northcote is compact, whereas Thornbury is more spread out. A cafe here, a bar there, and in between, as we meander up High Street towards Preston, there are a bunch of awesome, independent shops. Don’t let the disjointed nature of Thornbury deter you, though, we have a whole lotta goodness on offer! We suggest that after jumping on the tram at the end of Northcote, you stay on until tram stop 36 and then mosey northwards on High Street.
First stop, Thornbury Records (591 High St, Thornbury) aka ‘TRecs’. TRecs celebrates good tunes on vinyl (they don’t just stock vinyl though), along with the community that surrounds it. Packed with large amounts of music from all over the globe, they also promote local artists and releases that come from Melbourne and across Australia. They are a small, independent record store (sadly, a dying breed in the age of MP3s), they LOVE music and their staff are uber-knowledgeable!
Naturally on High (697-699 High Street, Thornbury) is a little further up, at stop 38. Like Terra Madre, Naturally on High is a one stop shop for high quality organic food and groceries. They also stock organic wines and will whip you up a delicious juice. If you live in the area Naturally on High is the best place to buy your Christmas groceries, especially if you plan on making a fruit cake: their array of dried fruit and nuts is astounding!
If you’re in need of a newspaper, a copy of Peppermint or Frankie, or you just love dapperly dressed cats, you simply must meet Wilbur at Normanby News (703 High Street, Thornbury). Bowtie-wearing, newspaper-reading, handsome-whiskered, champagne-coloured one year old rescue kitty Wilbur reigns benevolently (and adorably) over the newsagency. He loves a cuddle and we love him! Check out his Facebook page for updates on his latest antics and fashion choices.
Whew! We are almost at our front door! But before we get there, we want give a shout out to the wonderful cafes that are close by. If you are after coffee, a snack, lunch etc then all and any of these fine establishments are worth visiting. You will find that at least one of these will be open every day of the week.
And if it’s something a little stronger you’re after, there’s Northern Git (757 High St, Thornbury).
We couldn’t cover Thornbury and leave ourselves out, so the next stop is The Goodness Bureau (tram stop 39, 684 High St, Thornbury). We offer ethically-sourced, sustainably-made, handmade, local and Australian designed and produced homewares, cosmetics, body, skin and haircare, stationery and baby/kids products. We do have some overseas products, which are either fair or direct trade. We believe in voting in with your wallet and that you can buy and have beautiful things that are sustainable and kind to the planet and other animals. We want to make it easy (and fun!) to choose ethical and sustainable options. If you take a photo in store or out the front of our store or a pic of the goodies you buy from us and post it to social media with the hashtag #christmasroute86, you will go into the draw to win $100 prize pack after Christmas!
Perimeter Books (tram stop 40, 748 High St, Thornbury) is a small bookstore, art space and platform for various published art projects. They have a modest but wonderfully curated selection of local and international small press, art, photography, architecture and design publications and they exhibit publishers and contemporary artists with an interest in the printed form. A couple of years ago they launched an in-house publishing imprint ‘Perimeter Editions’, followed by ‘Perimeter Distribution’ in 2013. This is a great spot for coffee table books, as well as academic arts-related publications so set aside some serious browsing time.
Tram stop 41 houses the brand-spanking new Itchycoo Park (781 High St, Thornbury). It’s only been open a week or two, so we don’t know too much except that it offers a unique mix of handpicked vintage and new clothes, and local handmade products. Stop by and let us know what you think!
The Raw Store (825 High St, Thornbury) is a membership-only organic store selling food, groceries, cosmetics and other household items. Established around the three-word philosophy “Organic. Sustainable. Fair”, The Raw Store aims to compete with major supermarkets in price, whilst bringing you options that are ethical, environmentally friendly, locally-sourced (wherever possible) and top quality. Trial memberships are available if you don’t want to commit long term, but swing by and check them out!
Now, it’s probably time for a little break. Perhaps you’re in need of a cold beer, a white wine or a fancy cocktail? We recommend Pallino (790 High St, Thornbury) and/or (depending on your thirst level) Carwyn Cellars and Bar (877 High St, Thornbury). Pallino has a beautiful interior and a delectable sense of refinery; it’s a dapper place to sit back and enjoy a cocktail. Carwyn Cellars, however, are the experts in beer. The surroundings are a little more low key, and you can sit out on the footpath and do some people watching on High Street. You can’t go wrong with either of these fine establishments.
Are you a bit stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Looking to decorate your home for the festive season? You needn’t look any further than North St Botanical (776 High St, Thornbury). Arguably one of Melbourne’s most beautiful florists, North St has a constantly evolving array of fresh and unusual flowers. They also stock plants and other little gifts. Emily, the florist, will put together an arrangement that will fill you (and/or the recipient) with delight!
Next up, get it while you can: The Littlest Costume Shop (794 High St, Thornbury) pops up three months a year (here til Jan 2nd, 2015) with a wide range of costumes for sale and to hire. The costumes come from the eclectic collection of owner Mandy, who used to work for the costume department of the Welsh Opera. The range includes items Mandy has hand-sewn, as well as ex-stage, bespoke and vintage pieces along with your more regular fancy dress options (Star Trek, anyone?). There’s also a range of wigs and accessories to rifle through. It’ll make you want to throw a costume party, just to have an excuse to wear something from here!
Elk & Me Therapies Dispensary (810 High St, Thornbury) offers a range of natural therapies including acupuncture, naturopathy, counselling and cupping. Qualified Naturopath and Medical Herbalist Nellie will assess and treat you holistically; she has a particular interest in skin conditions and mood disorders, but a broad range of practice. The store also has a range of health-focused books for sale. Maybe you need a relaxing treatment after all your Christmas shopping?
Finally, we come to Preston (unless you’re rebelling and going north to south, you rebel, you). It’s time to leave High Street and enter Plenty Road. In the past, this would be the end of your shopping, eating and drinking experience but there’s Plenty (ha ha) more to see these days! Plenty Road is now dotted with a number of awesome places to shop and stop and these are some of our favourites.
The first pop-up we held was at Little Tengu Gallery (93 Plenty Rd, Preston), a small gallery and pop up space in Preston, just up from the split between High Street and Plenty Road. Featuring local and interstate artists, and more recently international, the owners brilliantly curate a diverse range of creative artworks. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, no exhibitions are planned for December, however the art in the windows will be worth a squiz and 2015 is bound to be exciting!
Just on the border of Thornbury and Preston is the cleverly named Boundary Espresso (tram stop 43, 107 Plenty Rd, Preston). Owner Dave and his crew make some of the most delicious meals and coffee around, so make sure you save some room for this stop. Our favourite is the Tofu Thai Salad and their Iced Coffee Soda. Top notch food and coffee plus friendly, helpful staff make this a great place to refresh.
Further north we have our friends at Model No. 143 (tram stop 44, 143 Plenty Rd, Preston). Full of retro furniture and objects, Model No. 143 has an eclectic mix of Australian mid-century, vintage and industrial design. They cover the 1950s to the those crazy days of the 80s. The very knowledgeable (and lovely!) owners are super-sleuths at finding amazing pieces, and a walk through the store will make you wish you had (at least!) three houses to furnish!
Right next door to Model No. 143 is The Raccoon Club (145 Plenty Rd, Preston). If you’re looking for a good drop of wine, beer, whisky, tequila, vodka, rum (etc) or you simply feel like hanging out in a relaxed establishment with awesome music (and no kids allowed) then The Raccoon Club is for you. There’s a pool table, board games, inside and outside seating and if you’re hungry, you can order food delivery to the bar. Special recommendation for Helen’s espresso martini. ‘Tis the season, after all.
There’s a bit of a way to travel to our final destination, Discobeans (tram stop 51, 539 Plenty Rd, Preston). Discobeans is a unique, modern restaurant serving healthy home-style Japanese food. Priding themselves on offering meals made with care from fresh, seasonal produce, they aim to use organics and whole grains wherever possible. They will “veganise” any item on the menu, too, so this is a great stop for those on an entirely plant-based diet. Dressings and specialist seasonings are available to purchase and make great gifts for foodies. In addition to the food, they regularly host art and music functions in their art gallery/performance space. If you mention this post during your visit, you can get a second coffee free with your meal.
As part of Christmas on route 86, we want to hear from you when you’re shopping here! Take a photo of yourself outside the store, or a picture of what you bought from us, tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and slap on the hashtag #christmasroute86 and we’ll put you in the draw to win a delightful $100 gift pack. The winner will be drawn at random on Christmas Day and the pack sent to you post haste.