Happy Valley

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
3rd of March 2014
Collingwood's newest art / design  bookstore - Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Product details at Happy Valley in Collingwood. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Collingwood's newest art / design  bookstore - Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Happy Valley owner Chris Crouch, formerly of Polyester Records. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
I really love a good bookshop. Despite being chained to the internet pretty much 16 hours a day, I'm a huge fan of good old fashioned print media, and one of my greatest indulgences would have to be an hour or so spent browsing the shelves in a really good bookshop.  It's been sad to watch the steady decline of local bookshops in recent years... there are still a few great ones in Melbourne, but they're not on every high street like they used to be!  With this in mind, it does seem slightly mental for anyone to consider opening a new art / design / bookshop now.  But what do I know?!  Former record label owner / record shop guy Chris Crouch has done just that, with his new store Happy Valley. With its diverse edit of books, magazines, locally designed gifts, art prints and other ephemera, I think he's totally nailed what a bookshop really needs to be these days. Chris' single minded vision for Happy Valley is no accident - it comes from a lifetime of experience in the record industry and independent retail.  After running his own record label, Candle Records, for 13 years, Chris bought much loved Fitzroy record store Polyester Records in 1999. The shop gave his record label a permanent home, and Chris continued to run both businesses until he sold the shop in 2010. After a bit of time off, he leapt into another field, with the purchase of the Tramway Hotel in North Fitzroy, with two partners.  He still owns The Tramway, but has greatly missed having a retail store, and so after developing a concept for this new venture, he has spent the the past 18 months hatching plans for Happy Valley.
Happy Valley is a design/art /book store that specialises in local design. 'The concept I had in mind was a retail store with a gallery feel, where customers could enjoy the space and find a great gift, even for the hard to buy for' says Chris. He was also very conscious of highlighting the fact that independent design can be practical and affordable.  Chris deals with around 100 local makers direct to ensure a unique product range.  He's certainly delivered on this commitment - stocking an incredible collection of gifts and locally designed items, from lightboxes by Australian photographer Mandy Lamont, to hand made warrior toys from Tasmania-based HiiRagi, to 'build it yourself' models of classic Australian homes by Marcus Bree, and handcrafted ceramics by Melbourne based Skimming Stones. Of course, books are also a big part of Happy Valley, and Chris has invested a lot of time curating this aspect of the shop. There's a dangerously good range of international and local magazines, and an incredible selection of books covering design, art, social sciences, humour, politics and graphic novels.
It's been just over three months since he opened the doors, and Chris has been amazed and encouraged at how well his shop has been embraced.  'I am really enjoying seeing everyone's positive reaction to the shop, it's really rewarding' says Chris. 'I'm looking forward to discovering new products in the coming months, it's important to me that the shop is always as exciting and fresh as possible'.
Though he has brought an immense wealth of experience to this new venture, I must say I do think the real estate Gods were also really looking after Chris when he took on his lease!  Happy Valley is perfectly positioned right opposite Gelati Messina (!!), and sandwiched between many of Smith street's most popular restaurants.  It's open late, so whilst you're waiting 45 mins for a table at Gorski and Jones, Saint Crispin or Shop Ramen, at least you now have a chance to catch up on some high quality bookshop browsing whilst your stomach is rumbling! Happy Valley 294 Smith Street Collingwood, VIC 3066 Full disclosure - Happy Valley's eclectic interior was designed by local architect Harley Vincent, and built, in part, by my partner Gordon Johnson, and Huw Smith.  (Gordon and Huw made the display units, counter and large table in the middle of the shop - many of the other shop fittings are second hand / vintage).
Extensive range of design, art and music titles at Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Gifts by local makers at Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Collingwood's newest art / design  bookstore - Happy Valley. Photo - Sean Fennessy.

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