A BIT of good news just off Freo’s Cappuccino Strip; after years of empty shops and lurking miscreants, The Piazza is now fully leased out with a mix of new and diehard tenants.
The Piazza was hit hard as Fremantle’s retail sector contracted over the last decade, and despite mainstay The Pickled Fairy weaving a little magic, it was put up for sale last year and purchased by local developers Yolk Property.
Yolk’s got plans in the wings for a major makeover involving apartments, but in the meantime has given management of the site over to Spacemarket, which has filled it from its stable of pop-up retailers.
Spacemarket general manager Sarah Booth said she was “overjoyed” when Yolk bought the property, saying she’d been reaching out to the previous owners for three years with no success.
“They had ownership of the site for over three decades, and like many older Fremantle landlords had very little appetite for activation,” Ms Booth said.
After being given the green light by Yolk director Pete Adams, she said it didn’t take long to fill The Piazza.
“The Fremantle Piazza was such a vibe when I was growing up in the 90s with Ark of Joan, Into Camelot and Joynt Venture etc being located there (as well as the wonderful Halka B more recently), and I’m so glad it’s now in the hands of an owner who recognises the importance of having it come to life and has a plan to spend money and revitalise what is a crucial part of the Fremantle centre,” Ms Booth said.
Local fashion designer and maker Jules Weston of Hickey Hardware took the plunge into a bricks and mortar outlet, while some of Freo’s established vintage crew have formed something of a pre-loved destination.
Cathy Carroll has had a stall at Fremantle Markets for years, but because of her love for pre-loved stuff she was looking for an outlet that would stay open during the week. She took one of the short-term leases on Shop 10 and has named her new boutique Ten.
“A few of the other shops are doing something similar, but I’m designer and others are vintage, so it becomes something of a destination,” Ms Carroll said.
Across the piazza, business partners Rika Barnes and Karl Johansson went against the grain and opened their cafe Let’s Fika Scandinavian Treats at the height of the Covid pandemic, when Fremantle’s streets were almost empty.
They persisted and Mr Johannson said it’s great to see more foot traffic now the other shops have filled as well.
“The whole place is more lively now,” he said.
Ms Barnes also started at the Freo Markets in 2019 selling cinnamon buns, but had been missing Swedish culture, particularly “fika”; it turns out Swedes share a similar love for coffee as Freo folk.
“In Sweden fika is more than just sitting down with a cup of coffee; it’s embedded in the culture,” Ms Barnes said.
“Even at workplaces, it’s common that you have a fika with your boss, your co-workers in the morning/in the afternoon, because research actually shows that you’re more productive during the day if you have a break – it doesn’t have to be long.”
So they opened the cafe, but Ms Barnes says it’s more than just selling Swedish treats.
“It’s about sharing the culture, and I like it to be authentic.”
Ms Booth said having tenanted shops would hopefully make The Piazza safer and keep it cleaner, and she’s now got her sights on the Fremantle Malls.
“I had almost given up hope on The Piazza but how quickly things changed for the better – never say never,” she said.
Ms Booth said anyone interested in getting one of the Piazza pop-ups should contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list.
by STEVE GRANT