For rare bookseller Kay Craddock, this year marks her 50th in business and the tenth as chair of the commendations advisory group.
It is only now that she has decided to step down from the chairperson’s role that Ms Craddock is nominating herself for recognition.
“I didn’t think it appropriate to put myself forward while I was heavily involved with the administration,” she said. “And I have been doing it all this time because I think it’s important, not because I was looking for any glory or self-promotion.”
Ms Craddock said the idea stemmed from listening to talk-back radio in 2005 when callers were bemoaning the fact that long-standing businesses had left the city.
“What about the people who are still here? I thought,” she said. “Isn’t it a pity that the city doesn’t make more of its success stories.”
It took a little while for the idea to mature and gain traction but, once embraced by former lord mayor John So, the commendations have gone from strength to strength.
Current Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is also enthusiastic about the awards, which will culminate in a recognition ceremony at the Melbourne Town Hall later in the year.
The purpose of the commendations is to recognise small business proprietors who have operated the same business within the City of Melbourne for 10 years or more (bronze award). Silver commendations are awarded for 25 years or more, gold is awarded for 40 years and platinum for 50 years.
While Ms Craddock has been in business for 50 years, only 48 of them have been in the City of Melbourne.
She explained that she and her parents started the business in Essendon 50 years ago this month.
It was only two years later that she and her mother moved the business to the CBD.
“I’ll be upgrading to a platinum award in 2017,” she said.
It’s amazing that the business survived at all, much less making it to 50, considering that her father died of a heart attack two months after they started.
“We couldn’t close the doors, so mum and I threw ourselves into the business,” she said. “I’m still throwing myself into the business.”
Although moving many times around the CBD, her business has been at its Collins St address for the past 26 years.
She explained that the lease (with options) was about to expire but she didn’t expect to be wanting to renew it.
“I thought Mum would probably be dead by then. Wrong! (Her mother Muriel turned 103 last month.) And I thought that at 70 I’d be looking to slow down. Also wrong!” she said.
“And I also didn’t think that the Lord Mayor’s Commendations would still be going 10 years later.”
Ms Craddock said it was the independent small business operators who gave a city its soul.
“I like to think they are the faces that make Melbourne marvelous,” she said.
She said her favourite moment was being thanked by a generational award-winning family from the Queen Victoria Market.
“They’d never been to the town hall before and were so pleased to be recognised for their years and decades in business,” Ms Craddock said.
“They brought me flowers and I protested saying that I had done nothing to deserve it. They said ‘No, you have. You thought of this’. They were so overwhelmed that someone had said ‘well done’.”
About 400 business proprietors have been commended during the past decade. Nominations for this year’s commendations close on May 22 and can be made via the City of Melbourne’s website.