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December 19, 2019

Letter from our publisher: Ten years making magazines (and two making sandwiches)

The end of one decade and the start of another gives pause to our publisher – Josh Fanning – to reflect on what's changed here and what the city needs if we're going to continue making progress here.

  • Words: Josh Fanning
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

Tomorrow, Friday 20 December, CityMag’s digital editor, Johnny von Einem and I are going to make you a sandwich, if you’ll let us.

No, this is not a metaphor (that’ll come later in this letter). Tomorrow from 12 midday Johnny and I will be at Lucia’s Fine Foods in the Adelaide Central Market making reuben sandwiches for anyone who wants one.


One Day Only!

CityMag’s Reuben Sandwich
Lucia’s Fine Foods
Shop 3 Central Western Mall Adelaide Central Market

Friday 20 December
From 12 midday

We’ve been reporting on Adelaide’s best reuben sandwich with an evolving list of venues and their take on a sandwich made famous by a Jewish deli in New York City. What I’ve failed to reveal before now is that I used to make sandwiches for a living.

When Farrin Foster and I launched CityMag seven years ago, it was from a hybrid office / specialty magazine store / café – just off Hindley Street – called Magazine Gallery.

The Reuben was our best seller.

CityMag is making sandwiches at Lucia’s tomorrow because Simon Bugeja liked the idea and Tom Parbs said he’d make it happen. Back in 2013 we actually paid Tom to work in Magazine Gallery one day a week so Farrin and I could have a whole day just being journalists for CityMag.

Tomorrow we come full circle and I work for Tom making the sandwich he (along with photographer and co-founder of Sunny’s Pizza Andy Nowell) helped create.

The decade of 2010-2019 is summed up by this sandwich in a lot of ways for me.


In the beginning

In 2010, Peel Chambers had a sign on the front of the building, and the ‘L’ in ‘Peel’ had been scrubbed off the plaque by some sort of reverse graffiti genius.

I know this, because my first ever commercial lease was on the ground floor of that building (2008-2009) in a space that had previously been used to store other tenants’ bins.

Peel Street was very much, “off Hindley” back in 2010. It was dimly lit and it was a place for men (and a few women) to relieve themselves of the burden of what they’d consumed on our city’s neon-soaked strip. Hence, ‘Pee Chambers‘.

In 2019 Peel Street has festoon lighting, is closed to traffic, and full of people living their one life to its fullest.

In 2009 Clever Little Tailor was a bondage and corset shop called Dragons Blood Creations and it smelt dank and musty inside.

I only went inside Dragons Blood Creations because the first photographer I ever worked with – the incredibly talented artist, Harmony Nicholas – worked there (well before Netflix and Game of Thrones made dragons cool for the masses).


When I started my first magazine (Merge) in partnership with fellow journalism graduate and illustrator, Owen Lindsay and graphic designer Tommaso Pascale in 2007, I didn’t know I needed photographers.

To call us naïve would be a massive understatement.

If we had have known how much time, energy and money establishing a magazine would suck out of us – we absolutely never would have done it.

Across the ensuing decade though, we grew up, we learnt and we listened, we mimicked, and we found our own voice. We sold Merge Magazine in 2008 to a British expat who funded a lot of our education. Merge shuttered as a result of the Global Financial Crisis in 2009, but we kept a head of steam and launched another magazine – Collect – in 2010.



The Collect era

Collect was made in Adelaide and sold in more than 15 countries around the world. It had absolutely no business model, except the ambition of myself and co-founder of Collect, Adam Johnson (who’s just had a baby with longterm partner Annie MacRae – congrats!) to give context to the good things going on in Adelaide, with the good things going on around the world.

Adelaide could never compare itself to New York, but we could certainly compare Coffee Branch with any café in the Big Apple.

Collect was about celebrating the small things, the local things, owner-operators, the small businesses, artists and creatives who make a city worth living in. Through its beautiful design (amazing work AJ) and eloquent editing (thanks again Farrin Foster), this magazine gave Adelaide pride and made the world take notice.

The magazine was picked up and distributed by MONOCLE to all of its stores worldwide. Collect was found in New York by the Sydell Group, who then engaged AJ’s design firm and Farrin Foster to make a magazine for their first ever LINE hotel chain, which has since expanded to Washington DC, Austin, Texas and – next – San Francisco!

But it was actually the local relationships that meant the most to me during this heady time of global expansion.

Through Collect, I met Josh Baker when writing about the launch of Coffee Branch.

At Coffee Branch I would regularly bump into Rob Dinnen and Rowan Edwards. They were meeting at Coffee Branch right up until they opened their small bar – Udaberri – on Leigh Street in the old Flight Centre. I think there’s an incriminating picture on someone’s Facebook page of me chipping off plaster and concrete render from the beautiful red bricks by the entrance to Udaberri wearing a t-shirt, shorts and thongs.

It was at Coffee Branch that I mooted the need for Dana Whyte, Crispian Fielke and Josh Baker to engage Adam Johnson in the design of their new bar on Peel Street.

Clever Little Tailor opened and Adelaide would never be the same.


The sandwich metaphor

And all throughout this exciting time of change and upheaval in Adelaide – a period that continues still – and all the positive stories Farrin Foster and I wrote (about Ebenezer Place, about a brand new concept for the city called food trucks, and an ambitious business called Burger Theory, about fixed gear bikes and selvage denim from Japan) Farrin Foster and I also made sandwiches.

Even when we launched CityMag and with it the first glimmer of hope that we might actually get paid for our journalism (six years after launching my first magazine, Merge), we still had to hustle up a decent cup of coffee and sandwich for the city to eat, in order to make ends meet.

And as much pride as I take now, at the end of this decade, in being able to not only pay myself but pay photographers, illustrators, designers and writers for their work on CityMag, I still take pride in the backbreaking work of slicing Paolo’s dark rye loaf each day and toasting it to order for those reubens.

So for Christmas this year – and in what I hope becomes a yearly tradition – I’m getting back in the kitchen to remind myself how important it is to take pride in what you do and remember why you’re doing it.

Change doesn’t always come in the form of a new, disruptive app funded by venture capitalists. Sometimes change is self-funded too.

CityMag hasn’t just reported on the changes this city’s been through over the past seven years but we feel like we’ve been a part of that story too. And so have you.

Each and every person (and I’ve only mentioned the bare sprinkling of incredible humans who’ve made this city worth writing about here in this letter) has a role to play in making Adelaide better. It doesn’t matter if you’re an architect, or a designer – a food and beverage entrepreneur or a software developer, a parking inspector, an accountant, lawyer or scientist. It’s all of us – working hard and making considered and considerate decisions every day – that build a better city for us all to live in.

Like pickles, sauerkraut, mayonnaise, mustard, dill pickles, pepper, horseradish and parsley make a delicious salad that underpins the exquisite and decadent salted beef and melted cheese sandwich – Adelaide is a city underpinned by all our work combined.

This decade has been great for this city. I’ve had a ball growing up here and meeting so many powerful and influential small timers. Oh and more than a couple of Premiers too.

No doubt 2020 will have its challenges. But – like a sandwich – you’ve just gotta take it one bite at a time.

From Johnny and I and the entire team at Solstice Media who make CityMag happen each day, thank you for reading.

I hope you’ll swing by Lucia’s tomorrow for a Reuben and – as always – I look forward to hearing what you think.

Warmest regards and nakutha,

Josh Fanning
Founder and Publisher, CityMag


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