THE Westgate Mall in Fremantle’s East End was once considered the heart of the city, buzzing with customers and vibrant traders.
Take a stroll down there today and you’ll be lucky to catch some tumbleweed.
Most of the shops and businesses closed long ago, but there’s a couple of traders left, including the indefatigable Vince Petrucci.
He’s run Fremantle Tailors at Westgate since 1993 and continues to deliver a “quality old fashioned service”, according to one content customer.
Mr Petrucci began tailoring in an Italian village when he was just 12.
He was still a boy when his family immigrated to Australia in 1963 and he couldn’t speak a word of English, but Mr Petrucci says making his way wasn’t hard.
“I was the perfect migrant because I got to Australia on the Wednesday and started working the following Monday. The only thing challenging about tailoring in Australia is that some people are oversized and some are undersized, but we have a saying in Italy–if you’ve got a trade then you don’t starve.”
During his five decades of tailoring in Fremantle, he’s made suits for notable politicians, businessmen and even criminals.
“I made a suit for somebody who picked it up on a Friday. The next day I read the papers and there he was in my suit–off to court on drug charges,” Mr Petrucci laughs.
He’s also seen numerous fashion trends come and go.
“I was around when everyone wanted flares. Now they’re only just starting to come back.”
Over the years the veteran tailor has witnessed the sad decline of Westgate Mall. He says inflated parking prices and a lack of maintenance have contributed to its downfall.
“You have to remember that Fremantle is not London. In London you can charge for parking what you like.
“Here, if someone is fined, it’s unlikely they’re going to come back again.
“They’re trying to forget this place [Westgate Mall], they want it to go away–but it hasn’t!”
Shop 15, Westgate Mall (off Point Street), Fremantle