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September 18, 2020
Commerce

The Commons Studio and Exchange to close its bricks-and-mortar store

Emily Sheahan’s high-end vintage store, The Commons Studio and Exchange, will have its final day of face-to-face trade next month as it goes online-only.

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  • Words and pictures: Angela Skujins

“I’ve seen the birth of a lot of things here,” says owner of Commons Studio and Exchange, Emily Sheahan, while surveying her empty store.

“Seeing the start of Stuff by Glad was really cool, and Ivy House has propelled so much here, also Emma [Byrne] of Romelia, who’s doing stuff now with artist Emmaline Zanelli, is amazing.

Remarks

The Commons Studio and Exchange will close its city shop on Saturday, 10 October.
17 Young Street, Adelaide
Wed—Sat: 10am ’til late

The business will continue to live on online. You can shop via the website.

“I hope these opportunities for cool and alternative people still happen, still continue.”

Emily opened the boutique retail store Commons Studio and Exchange in the city’s western pocket in December 2016. The original aim was to stock, and exchange as a consignment business, second-hand, independent, eclectic and sustainable fashion labels. But over the years the business model morphed.

Pieces by up-and-coming jewellery designers soon piled onto pylons. The space also hosted local zine launches and pop-up markets.

Although Emily is a foreigner to South Australia – she hails from Brisbane – she has an unshakable commitment to Adelaide’s alternative creative community.

This is exemplified through her commitment to stocking and celebrating local talent, and the fact that in pre-pandemic times she worked seven days a week across two jobs to keep the shop afloat. She has held up Adelaide as a creative city, one not to be snubbed, through initiatives like SLOW Fashion Festival, which she co-founded.

COVID-19 tested her belief in retail, but never in the community she supported. Ultimately this is the reason she’s keeping her business online.

“I have mixed feelings about closing the bricks-and-mortar shop,” Emily tells CityMag.

“I’m resigned to the fact that I know what the circumstances are and there’s not much I can do about it [and] we’re at this point of COVID that we just can’t weather anymore, we just can’t push through it.

“I know it’s also better for myself, my family, my mental health.”

Prior to the pandemic, Emily traded 30 per cent cash or 50 per cent store credit for those who exchanged clothing; she also donated unwanted items to charities. She is unsure about how this exchange process will occur online.

I would love, once all this stuff has died down, that some kid comes around and just does the same thing.

Who else can style a pair of R.M.Williams boots and a Comme des Garçons skirt so effortlessly?

 

Back in March when COVID-19 hit, Emily realised opening and trading clothing wasn’t a safe option for her or her customers.

Along with her Young Street neighbours – cult skate shop Twenty Fifty-Two, local record dealer Transition Record, and java favourite Elementary Coffee – Commons closed its doors for six weeks.

The store suffered a significant loss in sales during this time. Emily says sales dipped an average of 60 to 80 per cent.

It was tough to take, considering prior to the pandemic the shop was doing well.

When the Federal Government introduced the JobKeeper scheme, Emily was “very grateful”. Acquiring this, rent relief, and a state government $10,000 quick cash grant was a lifeline.

JobKeeper also meant her customers’ wages were supplemented, and it was around this time Emily noticed their return to the store. During the six-week closure, however, Emily was bolstering her website and Depop offerings. She’d also noticed an increase in sales from Melbourne buyers, which eclipsed Adelaide’s numbers.

This left Emily puzzled about the future of Adelaide’s retail scene.

“I know that when I opened the shop, I wanted to do so much for Adelaide. I wanted to do cool things and give a cool platform and it just didn’t happen as well as what it could have,” Emily says.

“Maybe I didn’t do it right. I don’t know. Maybe I am a bit old.

“I would love, in about one year or two years, once all this stuff has died down and everyone’s bored and is antsy for something cool to happen again, that some kid comes around and just does the same thing. But does it in a way that is long-lasting.

“I’d love to pass the torch.”

In light of the closure, Emily’s career is diversifying. She has recently ramped up work as a freelance stylist, working with hip-hop queen Tkay Maidza. She’s excited about an up-and-coming gig with rapper Trials, of Funkoars and A.B. Original, too.

When we suggest this might be the time for Emily to be put in the limelight, shown the same support she offered to local designers and creatives, she smiles. Maybe, she says.

For now, she can’t help but feel nostalgic about the two years spent on Young Street, and the memories made with customers and other business owners.

While Commons will live on online, and we’re sure we’ll see her styling career take-off, CityMag will miss visiting Commons and the endless number of projects Emily was involved with, each making the city a better and more interesting place to be.

Emily feels the same way.

“Beers out the front on the stoop. Gonna miss that,” she says.

“Thanks to everyone, it was so much fun.”

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