JIMMY GRANTS – EMPORIUM MELBOURNE
Jimmy Grants, a new souvlaki bar, has received much attention since the opening of the Emporium Melbourne. The origin of their name ‘Jimmy Grants’, which rhymes with ‘immigrants’, is displayed proudly on a front-facing window:
“When I moved from Cyprus to Melbourne in 1949, I got a job at the Docks. Everyone who came by boat was looking for work like me, but no true blue Aussie could pronounce my name. To them I was just another immigrant. Whether from Greece, Italy or China we were all just called ‘Jimmy Grant’” (1)
With its clear statement and the enlarged black and white photography, it demonstrates that the restaurant wants to evoke the spirit of immigrants at the Docks. Jimmy Grants not only burrow the Greek traditional elements but also encapsulates the sense of the suburban Melbourne milk bars run by immigrants. This is how I believe the designer approached in fulfilling the owner’s vision.
In evoking the spirit of immigrants, Jimmy Grant’s design is inspired by two key themes:
One, is the Melbourne suburban icon – milk bars (or mixed businesses) in the 1970s/1980s. Two, is the Greek traditional references. These two themes complement perfectly to the owner’s personal story, who was an immigrant himself, bringing the sense of authenticity and history through a nostalgic experience.
Melbourne Milk Bars
There are two different facades which demonstrates the typical look of a suburban Melbourne milk bars or mixed businesses, bringing it to life in a contemporary style.
The left façade demonstrates the ‘shop front’ window display of a typical milk bar with details of signs and familiar typography.
The window side entry is imagined as a turn of the century shop front with strip PVC and inward door style.
In contrast, the red bricks on the right façade, represents the renovation movement when milk bars struggled to make profit. The brickworks intentionally reads as an extension “as if it was added to the shop at a later date”(2).
This also made me realised that most milk bars are now abandoned, which reminds me of an article about Melbourne milk bars becoming extinct:
“The milk bar as we knew it is almost extinct, swallowed in its death throes by the ceaseless march of modernity: the convenience store, the franchise, fast food, the service station and the supermarket.” (3)
The brickworks also appears to imitate the side view of a typical milk bar, as evident by exposing the carton boxes and drink bottles through the louvre windows. Over the exposed kitchen area, a striped canvas awning embody the Milk bar’s appearance from street view.
Jimmy Grants’ branding identity is influenced by Greek references, evident by its graphic design and careful selection of materials. If you are wondering why there are cross and minus signs everywhere, it is actually an abstract version of an old apothecary symbol and blue stripes from the Greek flag. This also explains why the designer consistently used the colour blue and white throughout the space.
Jimmy Grants features common Greek decorative materials such as mosaic and styrofoam tiles in a playful manner. This allows us to recognise the traditional elements, since Ancient Greece were known for their elaborate art in the 4th Century.
Jimmy Grants also decorates the space with kitsch references to Greek mixed businesses. From inspired bug zapper neon sign to exposing stacking plates, old school signs and timber benches, this also combines the docks atmosphere relating back to the immigrants concept.
Jimmy Grants’ interior design celebrates the Melbourne milk bars and the immigrants background in the most playful and nostalgic approach. Not only it brings joy of our childhood memories associated with milk bars but also raise the issue faced by milk bar owners. It was a memorable and educational experience through learning about ‘Jimmy Grants’, I’m also keen to visit their other branches to compare some of the similarities and differences. Check it out!
1. Jimmy Grants. Accessed January 2015. http://jimmygrants.com.au/
2. “Techne pays homage to the 1970s Milk bar”. Australian Design Review. Accessed January 2015. http://www.australiandesignreview.com/designwall/44199-techne-pays-homage-to-the-1970s-milk-bar
3. “Long farewell to a suburban icon”. Chris Johnston. The Age. Accessed January 2015. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/long-farewell-to-a-suburban-icon-20121026-28aye.html