Support for business

How Woolloomooloo vintage store Grand Days draws customers day to night

This boutique is a community fixture with an ever-evolving identity. Find out how a grant helped it move from retail into occasional entertainment.

Grand Days bookshelf crop

In an era of fast fashion and online shopping, stores like Grand Days in Woolloomooloo are a rarity. It’s the kind of place you pop into for a second, but stay for an hour. The eclectic store has its roots in bohemian Kings Cross. It’s full of vintage books, fashion, vinyl records and other treasures.

With help from our night-time diversification grants, Grand Days evolved into an evening spot for culture in the true spirit of yesteryear.

Steeped in history and loved by locals

Grand Days owes its beginnings to much-loved local store Budgen’s Books. Budgen’s was established 17 years ago in a tiny Victoria Street nook. The historic boutique later relocated to the top of William Street. It has been in the proud hands of owners Tom Hespe and Tamara Kennedy for 6 years.

“Tom comes from a family of booksellers. He worked in the area and would often drop in. One day Tom noticed a business for sale sign in the window. We decided to take it on and give this well-loved store a new lease on life," Tamara said.

Renamed in homage to Australian author Frank Moorehouse’s novel, Grand Days has always been a labour of love for its owners. In what felt like a natural progression, the bookstore has become filled with curated vintage clothing, homewares and art over time.

“This actually started from another City of Sydney program,” Tamara said. “A few years ago, we participated in Fashion in the Villages, a suburb-wide retail event where we had a pop-up market. The stall went really so we decided to keep it up a few extra days. We’ve been stocking clothing ever since.”

Tamara and Tom both work in the store, which is open 7 days until around 7pm. This, and the personal curation of their wares, makes Grand Days a place people regularly visit for a browse.

“Locals come in for a wander and to enjoy the atmosphere. We often get asked if we live here!” Tamara said.

Grand Days owners Tom Hespe and Tamara Kennedy
Grand Days owners Tom Hespe and Tamara Kennedy

Creative program tempts weeknight culture lovers

Grand Days evolved again in 2019. In tune with their eclectic product range, Tom and Tamara will host an array of evening events. These included an intimate live set from musician Dan Kelly, screenings of Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch films, and flamenco performers.

They’ve even hosted the maestro of material Brad McGlashan, who owns a business nearby, for a scarf-folding tutorial.

“Our customers have really embraced this programming. And we’ve had new people come in too,” Tom said.

“We got a new crowd on the night Dan Kelly performed: fans of his music. We advertised through Eventbrite, so we attracted a broader audience than we do naturally. And news travels through word of mouth, so people discover the shop all the time,” Tamara added.

The owners say that a night-time diversification grant has been a great help.

“It has allowed us to offer a higher calibre of programming, which is really important to our vision and aesthetic. For example, Leah Flanagan, one of the musicians we invited, has just come off touring with Midnight Oil,” Tamara said.

As a musician, Tom was able to approach people he thinks are amazing and pay them appropriately with funds from the grant.

“This is important at a time when it’s so difficult for performers to make money from their work,” Tom said.

Grand Days boutique
Grand Days boutique

City grant opens doors to unique events

The grant offers up to $30,000 that is matched to the time and resource investment of the business.

“Pulling together an itemised budget for what we wanted to do wasn’t hard,” Tamara said. "And we were really helped by the City. They answered all of our questions.”

As part of the grant process, the store successfully applied to change its development application to trade until 10pm for its monthly events.

“With everyone working such long hours these days, Grand Days offers a place for people to meet each other. This is so important now. There aren’t too many venues around that can fit a lot of people and do something different,” Tom said.

“The grant has given us freedom to program. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to match our standard of professionalism and invite unique performers,” Tamara said.

Want the resources to do new things in your space? The night-time diversification grant is open for applications from businesses, non-profits and social enterprises in our local area. The grant is competitive, but you can chat to us to make the process simpler.

Apply by Monday 9 March.

Published 11 July 2019, updated 29 February 2024