[INTERVIEW] Geelong, This Is Your Revival

Over the past few years, community morale has been down about our beloved G-Town. We have been known only for our football team, 24-hour Kmart, and the regularity of stores closing down. But this is no more.

Take your preconceived notions about Geelong and throw them out the window, because our city is in the middle of a major face lift, and at its heart is Little Malop Street.

“A lot of people sort of have that preconceived idea about, ‘Maybe it’s not safe,’ things like that,” owner of Pistol Pete’s Food ‘n’ Blues Restaurant Pete Raimondo says. “Maybe once, but it’s a different time now.”

Over the past 18 months we have seen Little Malop Street reinvent itself. Pistol Pete’s popped up only a year and a half ago, the new Workers Club is quickly becoming the music venue of choice for touring musicians, and when it comes to coffee and cake…well you’ll struggle to choose between Coffee Cartel, the James Street Bakery and late-night dessert bar, Armageddon Cakes. There’s also plenty of giftshop options with QwertyShirt offering your pop culture needs, Real Music covering everything music and Thule Trading with things to fill your shelves and walls at home.

“I think things are starting now to strip away, you know, and things are starting to pick up and rejuvenate itself. And a lot of people come in and say, ‘I haven’t been here for ages, this is cool.’”

At the forefront of the changes in our city, Pete has seen the cycle of the CBD as it has gone from a busy community hub in the ’80s and ’90s, to what we know today. Born and bred in Geelong, this is where his passion comes from.

“I sort of always wanted to do something in Geelong. I was born here, and have lived here all my life pretty much, so that was sort of what I wanted,” shares the owner of the Southern styled venue.

“I think we’re doing really good with the acts that are coming in and playing. You don’t have to go up to Melbourne to hear and see acts – you should never really have to. We just have to create the places for us, in general places for people to go and enjoy good food and good music.”

If you’ve missed the buzz surrounding Little Malop Street of late, let us catch you up. Along with a truckload of new businesses, many of them owned by Developer Bill Votsaris of the appropriately titled Batman Investments, the street has been tidied. Now you will see a well-lit street, full of art, practical planter boxers, and a diverse mix of people. Music and excited chatter wafts from Beav’s Bar, the sounds of otherworldly piano playing lingers from the piano bar, Blue Note, and cute little shops owned by locals lure you into soft, warm store fronts. The next step in Little Malop Street revival then, is a massive renovation.

“We’ve taken the little shop next door to us and we’ve opened that up. So that opens some more seats, that should be around the 70 mark when before we were doing 30 something,” Pete says.

The venue which boats Louisiana style food (and the new addition of waffles) is also about to gain a courtyard, which it will share with the up and coming wine bar to be located at the corner of Little Malop St and Shorts Place.

“Behind that whole block, that’s all coming down. We’re getting new toilets, we’re going to create a courtyard so that’s going to be exciting. We’re sharing that with the wine bar. That will give us more space, and give us another dimension to that city area.”

Pete also mentions the old bakery on Shorts Place, which is opening a restaurant, the soon-to-be Peoples Potato parlour down the street, the James Street Bakery facelift, and the renovation of Armageddon Cakes. That seems to be the beauty of this resuscitated area, it is being revamped by locals, for locals.

“There’s lots of possibilities. I suppose we’re taking baby steps just seeing what works and how best to get it to work. And as people get used to the area and go, ‘Look there is something down there now,’ there’s a reason to go down there. Whereas before there was nothing there… there’s between four or five places that are gonna open up in the next six months.”

No longer just an area for teens, places like Pistol Pete’s provide families, friends and couples the chance to sit down before a show at GPAC, popping out for a drink, and returning for a gig later that night. The new library set to be completed this summer, will add a new life to the bustling arts scene developing on the street.

The street is set to come alive later this month with Geelong’s first laneways festival, Street Life, along Downes Lane, Downes Place and John Street. Little Malop also reinvents itself – much like Degraves St in Melbourne – when Eureka, Pistol Pete’s and Workers Club open out onto the streets for the occasional ‘pop up eats’ events.

“I think people are looking for something a bit different now, a bit more personal. Be it retail or be it whatever, they’re looking for that now. For that whole Little Malop, James Street, all that area, and hopefully what will happen is that that will spew out into Moorabool Street. You want it to creep up and creep down, and it helps to get more people in the city as well.”

Geelong, this is your revival. And as I finished up with Pete, he had one final message for us. “I think it’s just believing in our town. Believing in ourselves, and not feeling like we’re second class… We’re very good at lots of things and I think this is something of ours that we can be good at, and are good at already, and people just need to take it on board and [on] we go.”

What’s New on Little Malop

Pistol Pete’s (newly renovated)
The Workers Club
Coffee Cartel
St James Nightclub
Real Music
Hot Chicken Project
Thule Trading
Craft Space
Hucksters & Co
KIKI Studio (moved/new store)
Urban Stalker
Black Sparrow Salon
People’s Potatoes (opening soon)
Blue Note
Moo Mouth Coffee