The Myer Christmas Windows aren’t the only Christmas window display in the CBD, or necessarily the most popular.
Queen Victoria Market’s Ambiance gift shop has one of the most intricate and impressive shop fronts in the city.
“I do all the windows and that’s my favourite part, doing the displays,” said Mel Martino, who runs the shop with her sister Connie.
“A lot of people come in and say it’s up there with the Myer windows and a lot of people come into the shop because they walk past and see the windows.”
Mel opened up shop on the Elizabeth St section of the market 22 years ago, her sister joining her a year later.
“I had been a primary school teacher for 20 years and someone brought it to my attention that this shop was empty,” she said.
“I always wanted to run a shop, so I decided I’d take a term off and try it out and I’ve never been back.”
Originally the shop’s Christmas section was just one cupboard.
“Slowly it’s developed into this. We moved into the shop next door a few years later and Christmas has just grown and grown and grown.”
And yes, the shop is open all year round. Surprisingly, demand keeps up.
“We’ve filled a demand for something that didn’t really exist in Melbourne,” she said.
“There wasn’t really a dedicated Christmas store and it’s just grown from that and now we get people from all over the world.”
“A lot of people ask if we’re open all year round. We have people who come in from all over the world, and we have people who literally come in with a card that someone else has given them overseas to come to us.”
Anyone who enters the shop is struck, not just by the quantity of stock, but the co-ordination of every single room.
“We source our products from all over the world, we go overseas, we’re invited to warehouses, show-ins, trade fairs. We have about 500 different suppliers and we’ve travelled to Hong Kong, India, Italy and Mexico to source products,” Mel said.
“I thought I’d do the silver room out the back all silver and white so people aren’t overwhelmed when they come in. If you’re a silver person you go to that room.”
“If you’re into reds and golds there’s another room for you.”
But the whole shop isn’t strictly Christmas – there’s also a large collection of non-festive themed products, including handbags and jewellery.
“There’s so much in here but when you walk in all you see is Christmas, it takes over.”