The family business

The other week I dropped past Hattams in Elsternwick, where I worked part-time as a teenager. Had a good long chat with Ian, who runs the store now. Hattams is a family business, started in 1879. They’ve had clothing stores at various places around the state, with their last two (for the past few decades) at Hampton and Elsternwick.

Over the years the stores have been handed down through the generations, with in many cases the kids taking on the interests of the parents. Sometimes it happens in other industries too — Brian Henson is in town at the moment, having followed his father Jim into the puppet business.

But at some point, the tradition ends, if the kids take on other interests and don’t want to follow on from their parents. In the Hattams’ case, the kids aren’t that impressed with the long hours of small-business retail, and have gone into other things.

Richard, who runs the Hampton store, is reaching retirement age, and it’s uncertain what may happen. Ian is a fair way from retirement, but if both of them eventually retire and close-up shop, a long history of small-business retailing may draw to a close.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

6 replies on “The family business”

Colliers closed recently. That shoe store was in Koornang Rd longer than I care to consider, beaten by a resurgent CBD, ever-expanding malls and most importantly poor stock and a serious lack of investment. The store looked like it hadn’t been renovated since 1965. The owners didn’t care, so why should their customers?

Hattams also is a time warp.

Go to Church Street Brighton – lots of well renovated shops full of teenagers, no 60’s hangovers there

I’ll go on, I’m on a favourite subject of mine.

Friends of ours have a ‘small’ shop in (grrr) Chadstone. They were forced to totally renovate a while ago, or lose their shop. They renovated and they remain busy and successful – good luck to ’em. So Chadstone continues to dominate it’s catchment; Southland continues to damage it’s area in the same way – Charman Rd & Centre Rd have been badly compromised by Southland and the reluctance by the local shopkeepers to keep themselves modern (and relevant)

Yet our fixed rail transport doesn’t serve the successful malls like Chaddy and Southland; so the car parks at the malls are full and the traditional retail strips, bereft of good management, don’t so as well as they should with good public transport as well as plenty of free parking. Who needs a train when Southland is available? Centre Rd is busy – no doubt – but imagine how busy it could be if it were managed as well as the local mall!


Clothes shops haven’t been doing well in Koornang Rd – there just isn’t the critical number for comparative shopping you’d get at (say) Chadstone.

Op-shops have also been in decline with Oz being the most recent closure. However the new Salvos is the best op-shop in the street, far more interesting than the bland and female-oriented Red Cross.

Estate agents and mortgage outlets have generally grown, though there have been some high-profile closures, eg Wizard didn’t last long.

Koornang Rd is mainly a food street now. There is once again a deli. Coffee shops and pattiseries have seen the biggest increase, with no fewer than 3 openeing in the last month alone. And there are a couple of new restaurants as well.

Alan: “traditional retail strips, bereft of good management”…
Remember that strip centres don’t have the level of control that the Chadstones and Southlands of the world have. In fact they have no control whatsoever over who moves in. So they can’t dictate the mix of shops, whereas Westfield et al can say “We’ll have X cafes, and Y clothes shops and Z hairdressers, and this is where they’ll all be.”

Hattams in Hampton is closing down. Signs up this morning.

But Peter why can’t local streets be relevant and full of choices? I want public transport, like you guys I guess, to be more relevant. We do that by ensuring that every stop on a train line, within reason, is something like a destination.

Burke Rd Camberwell and Church St Brighton (both with rail stations, trams and/or buses) are both great local strips. You can shop in both and never need a mall. What makes Church St work while Koornang Rd doesn’t? It can’t just be moneyed locals; there’s something more fundamental, in a planning sense, going on.

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