Latest Polyester Update
Yes the Polyester store at 330 Brunswick St has closed. When asked by customers for an explanation during those sombre last weeks, I found it difficult to coherently verbalise the reasoning behind the shop's demise, finding it easier to spout the same sentences, phrases, grunts and sighs that had become somewhat of a script, delivered with an air of resignation and melancholy.
So forget the script. Here's what happened. I realise no-one will read this, I am documenting it for my own benefit.
2015 was not kind to Polyester. I myself have certainly had better years as well. As 2016 dawned, the writing was on the wall for our beloved little shop at 330 Brunswick Street. Despite the best efforts of Jo, Jules and myself we were staring down the barrel of extinction. After spending 2015 desperately keeping the business afloat with whatever funds I could scrape together from my 'regular' job, when 2016 began and the May lease expiry date loomed large on the horizon, the outcome we had previously refused to abide had become stark, brutal reality. To sign another 4 year lease would have been an act akin to suicide.
In late January Jo's father, who lives in Sydney, was diagnosed with Lymphoma. As far as cancers go, you can do a lot worse than Lymphoma. But at the age of 84 and with a brutal 3-month course of chemotherapy ahead of him, Jo did what all good daughters do and she went to be by his side through the ordeal.
So with Jo gone for a minimum of 3 months this virtually assured that the heart and soul of Polyester would take no further hands-on part in its day to day running. We had 3 more rental payments to make and no-one to operate the business. The only card left in our hand to play was the 6 weeks in annual leave I had built up from my full-time job. The objective for those 6 weeks was simple yet daunting at the same time: Sell off everything in the shop, make enough cash to pay out the remaining 3 months rent, then close the doors and run down the clock till May.
So that was pretty much what we did - thanks to a minor social media storm, a major old media storm, the hard work of our employee/talisman Jules and my heroic step-daughter Jamie who stepped into the breach, the magnificent response of our customers, old and new, and of course the many and varied research chemicals I consumed over the 6-week period.
By my estimates, the Closing Down Sale managed to offload about 95% of our stock of books and magazines. We sold off posters that had graced the walls for over a decade, shop fittings and fixtures, Jo's beloved stepladder/chair (sorry Jo!) and the jewel in the crown - the 1.5m tall Bob Dobbs neon sign that had so benevolently stood watch over the comings and goings at Polyester for over 20 years.
We donated to the State Library of Victoria the collection of artwork that was submitted as part of a design competition to protest the infamous raid on Polyester by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in 1999. I'm extremely grateful to the State Library for accepting these pieces so willingly, and thus ensuring that this slice of Polyester's history will now be preserved among the important historical artefacts of this city.
The flurry of activity that characterised those last 6 weeks was punctuated by so many moments of personal reflection I shared with customers. I soon realised that Polyester Books was indeed much more than a mere small business enterprise. It was a touchstone for anyone who dared to look for something else in life, who sought their own independent worldview. Stigmatised by those whose beliefs and ideology they renounced, at Polyester they found the information to help them continue on their own path, and were welcomed and accepted for doing so.
But the story didn't quite end the way we had envisaged. During those final 6 weeks the ghost of Polyester Past returned - with a deal I just couldn't refuse. Polyester's founder, Paul Elliott offered to sub-let the now vacant shop so he could sell off his vast treasure trove of books and records that he had amassed over a couple of decades running Dizzy Spinners record store and then Polyester Books. And so for the last 2 months on the lease, the shop seemed to have been transported back in time, before gentrification, before million-dollar house prices, the internet, smartphones, globalization and the surveillance state, a time when art, music and culture were valued, when kids rode bikes without helmets and heroin junkies roamed the streets.
It was a fitting end, really.
So on May 18, 2016 after another final flurry of activity to clear out the shop and clean in places that hadn't been cleaned in 30 years, I handed a fistful of keys to the landlord's son, walked to my car and drove away. I didn't look back.
Jo's father completed his course of chemotherapy last week and according to his doctors he is now holding the disease at bay. Jo has now decided to remain with her father in his Bondi apartment indefinitely.
I just want to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those who made Polyester what it was - the hardcore, true believers who embraced the shop and everything it stood for. I love you crazy fucks!