Cultural and creative life

How a local vintage retailer became a night time live music venue

The success of after-dark events prompted Woolloomooloo retailer Grand Days to make the store a true day-to-night space

Grand Days renovated space

When brown paper went up in the window of much-love local vintage and book store Grand Days during April’s lockdown, the community waited with baited breath.

Were they going to reopen? Lucky for everyone positive changes were afoot – behind the paper, owner’s Tamara and Tom were renovating.

The changes they’ve made allow Grand Days to be open to customers from day to night permanently. This shift builds on the success of an after dark event series called Grand Nights. The series launched in 2019 with the support of a night time diversification grant from the City of Sydney. They also had to apply for approval to change their hours of operation.

“Those events proved to be relatively straightforward to put together and successful and rewarding for everyone,” says Tom.

The series saw them host live music performances, dinners, film screenings, workshops and more. Names like musician Dan Kelly brought new customers through their doors. And their regular daytime customers enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time in the space and connect with likeminded people.

A night time event at Grand Days in 2019
A night time event at Grand Days in 2019

But while the programming was easy and they were attracting audiences and community collaborations, reorganising the space each time was challenging.

“There was just so much stuff in the shop, it was just wild,” says Tamara. “It basically took us a whole day to put on a 1-hour performance.”

“After the series finished we thought: why don’t we see if we can make this place better for performance?” says Tom. Tom is also a musician, so the duo were aware of the need for diverse live music spaces.

Making the space performance ready

Grand Days was a successful applicant for a City of Sydney live music and performance capital works grant. The funding provided support to make the retail space performance ready.

The owners took on much of the renovation work themselves. They wanted to create a space that would match the intimate vibe of their store.

“We were never looking to be a loud rock and roll venue with big amps and drums. It's more about solo performers or jazz trios or classical quartets,” says Tom.

“We were interested in creating a very atmospheric place where it was really about the performance and the space that you were in. We really think there's a market for that, specially around here in Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Woolloomooloo. The demographic is pretty broad and we've had people at our events from ages 16 to 70 in the room!”

New beginnings give a stronger focus

The renovations have dramatically transformed the space. Three smaller rooms have become one large open space that makes the space feel double the size.

Other additions included cork tiles for soundproofing, better lighting for mood and ambience and improved bathroom access.

“We've got floor to ceiling curtains at the back so we can open up the space and create a performance space when we want, but use it as a change room during normal trade,” says Tom.

The Grand Days change room can now also become a stage
The Grand Days change room can now also become a stage

They believe the changes mean they’ll be able to work with a broader cross-section of groups and people. “We want to give people not necessarily a better experience but a different experience,” says Tom.

The renovation has also made their store more Covid safe.

“Now people feel like there's a lot more space to browse,” says Tamara. “And people might feel more comfortable coming to a smaller venue with 20 people than they might going to a larger venue with a lot of people.”

While in the short term their live music event schedule has been postponed, they are concentrating on planning for future events and moving some business online.

Tamara says the grant has given them a strong sense of purpose and focus in uncertain times. She says the grant has been flexible to reflect changing public health orders and community safety.

We’re here to support your businesses when you apply for a grant. If you have an idea that could take your small business from day to night, or want to make changes to hold live events in your space, music or entertainment, check out our latest grants. Applications for this round are due 31 August.

Read more about support available for night time businesses here.

Published 19 August 2020, updated 23 October 2020