By Sunny Liu
Another iconic Melbourne institution has closed its doors in March, after operating in the CBD for 96 years.
Thomas’ Music officially closed its shop at 31 Bourke St on March 16, much to the dismay of its loyal customers who travel from all over Australia and around the world for classical music at Thomas’.
Owner Elisabeth Vodicka said the unfortunate fate of Thomas’ Music had received an “outpouring of grief” from the community.
“The reaction has been torrential. We’ve had more people come in in the last nine days than in the last three months. We have sold half a million dollars worth of stock in nine days,” she said.
“Everyone who comes in expresses their unhappiness and frustration that we are going. Especially for the older customers who’ve been coming here for 50 years, they’ve got nowhere else to go now,” Ms Vodicka said.
“We have a lot of client base, but there’s just not enough new clients and demand for the huge amount of stock that we are carrying,” she said.
“Thomas’ has a very strong following, including lots of famous people,” she said, pointing to the numerous autographs on the wall.
“There’s been lots of interesting customers that we’ve had. But no more,” Ms Vodicka said.
“It’s just not a viable business anymore. We specialise in the hard-to-get things, such as records and cassettes. When you get to a point where you sell things that you can’t actually get, it makes it a bit hard.”
Ms Vodicka said the proliferation of digital music platforms had “killed off” physical stores.
“Now, instead of buying music, you can go online and listen for free. So you don’t need to come into a store and buy it. Digital has sabotaged the music industry,” she said.
Thomas’ Music is one of the last classical music stores in Australia, where the staff are equipped with professional knowledge about music genres and products.
Within the last few decades, Ms Vodicka has witnessed dramatic changes to the CBD’s retail scene.
She was reminiscent of when several classical music stores co-existed in the heart of the city with high patronage.
Music store Disqueria closed several years ago and Myer used to have a classical music department.
“A lot of the niche stores are disappearing. Although Melbourne prides itself in those little niche retailers, we don’t get a lot of support from the council or the government,” Ms Vodicka said.
She said a lot of things had played a role in the demise of independent retailing in the city and state government’s land tax policy was a big factor.
“The amount of land tax we pay has doubled ever since the new policy was put in place. It’s just appalling. How can the CBD’s retail industry survive when they do things like that?”
“Melbourne’s going to be left with a whole lot of chain stores and cafes, restaurants, bars and nail salons. It’s not going to be very interesting,” Ms Vodicka said.
She also said the City of Melbourne had not provided adequate support for small businesses within the municipality.
“I think the council has forgotten who writes their cheques. It’s not a very supportive environment for small businesses, which are the backbone of the economy,” Ms Vodicka said.
The closure of Thomas’ Music follows recent departures of Modak Motorcycles on Elizabeth St and Ding Dong Lounge on Market Lane, both had operated in the CBD for decades.
Thomas’ Music will sell any remaining stock online via www.thomasmusic.net.au