White picket fences aren’t exactly de rigueur in Fyshwick. And it’s not the kind of spot you’d make a beeline for to buy a pair of Gucci loafers or a vintage Louis Vuitton clutch.
But an unassuming building on the corner of Lyell Street and Barrier Street in this semi-industrial Canberra suburb is full of surprises.
The Designer Op Shop Emporium is not any old secondhand store. Glittering trinkets, designer dresses, vintage homewares and pre-loved jewels are perfectly curated across 400 square metres of floorspace, punctuated by oversized mirrors, sparkling chandeliers and eclectic art.
The cornucopia of collectables is the work of Sharyn and Dion Pitsilos and their daughter, Taylor, who needed a bigger space for their successful Designer Op Shop in Braddon and found a vacant building that began life in 1942 as a transport depot east of the city.
“We saw a great opportunity because ladies would buy beautiful clothing and wear them maybe once or twice, but there was no outlet where they could resell or recycle them,” says business manager Dion, who adds that the Instagrammable nature of the emporium, which opened three years ago, is all down to Sharyn and Taylor. The larger premises has enabled the family to expand far beyond designer clothing.
As a committed shopper, and one who is particularly keen on vintage finds, I’m kicking myself that I’ve not stumbled across this place sooner. Countless hours could have been spent rummaging through the 12 stalls selling everything from tribal art and antiques to Scandinavian glassworks, perfumes, retro furniture and fine china.
The competitive, and tiring, nature of secondhand shopping is perhaps why the Pistilos family decided to add a cafe to the premises a year ago. So popular is Emporium Espresso that Dion has been busily working on an al fresco dining area at the front of the building.
Bordered by a white picket fence – newly erected by Dion – and pots festooned with flowers, this outdoor space with a handful of tables and chairs is as compact as the cafe itself, but a welcome option for shoppers as well as the many regulars who pop by for a bite of breakfast or a light lunch as the spring weather sets in.
The boutique cafe continues the family business tradition. Dion’s Greek-born mum, Angela, makes several of the delectable goodies featured on display each week. Her lemon cake is dotted with fresh lemon peel and drizzled with a generous amount of syrup – the perfect follow up to her delicious flaky spanakopita stuffed with spinach, feta, onions, parsley and mint.
Also homemade by Angela are the savoury Greek muffins wrapped in baking paper, and a dangerous looking tray of baklava. Rounding out the offering at Emporium Espresso are a variety of sandwiches and wraps – roast beef, butter chicken – vegie frittata and other baked goods sourced from Deakin’s popular EQ Bakehouse. There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options such as a brownie and an orange and ricotta cake.
The coffee is excellent, with beans sourced from Sydney’s Blacksmith Coffee Roasters – you can buy a 1kg bag at Espresso Emporium if you haven’t had your fill.
There are smoothies and soft drinks available, too.
The food at Espresso Emporium is simple but satisfying fare, particularly Angela’s homemade treats. The range is not huge – there is no menu so what you see in the display cabinet is what you get – but I love this eclectic little spot. It’s the perfect vantage point from which to mentally plan the order of attack on those fabulous collectibles.
With dainty treats served on old-school china and the venue’s feel of stepping back in time to a more decadent era, Emporium Espresso is a rare jewel among Fyshwick’s sea of hardware stores, car dealers and wholesalers.
Emporium Espresso at the Designer Op Shop Emporium is open from 9.30 am until 4 pm every Wednesday to Saturday, and from 10 am until 4 pm on Sundays.