October 13, 2016
I’m so glad that so many of you could come to join us to celebrate this incredible
It didn’t really hit me what it means to have a business for 100 years until very
recently when I started to put together the exhibition that is up here in the gallery.
Only a few weeks ago I opened up a room right here in the shop that has been
locked shut for over five years.
In it I found an absolute goldmine of history; the history of Michael’s the
business; the history of our family and the history of this building.
The building that we’re standing in, well, actually, the area of the media school to
my left, and the camera department - which has also beneath us to our left, my left
- was the original building that my great-great- grandfather built in 1915.
We started out in 1916 as a gunsmith and a pawnbroker, but over time we
obviously evolved and we adapted to changing family members and changing
The building itself is actually heritage-listed and its iconic façade has remained
exactly the same over all of these years.
Since working on putting together this exhibition over the last three weeks and
discovering the images of our infamous corner, seeing how it is evolved over time;
I just can’t help but walk down Elizabeth Street and imagine all of the millions of
people who have walked the same street and looked into the same windows.
One of my favourite images from the early 1940s; where the window of the
delicatessen - which was situated where our current Elizabeth Street entrance is -
displays a sign saying “freshly cooked rabbits.”
At this time, our business was operating as H.I. Michael chemist, and if you look at
this photo you’ll notice that the business name is printed on wooden slats.
My dad explained to me that this is because every night we would board up the
front windows to shield them in case there was a bomb; because this was World
I discovered that in the 1950s while operating as (Secura pharmacies) we had a
very successful mail-order business for contraceptives - I didn’t know this.
Apparently, we were one of the first people in Australia to import condoms; and
my grandfather was known as the “Condom King.”
I also learned that we were one of the first businesses to have a photocopier in the
1960s, and offer photocopying as a service for our customers.
I think that what has enabled us to achieve our centenary is the ability to adapt to
the changing times; we have always been active in seeking out the leading
technology and in many instances, were the first to sell these items or provide these
In one of the articles, I found written about my late grandfather, (Alan), it said that
he often travelled overseas to conferences to find the newest technology and bring
it back to sell at the shop.
This is one of the reasons it allowed him to stay ahead.
Well, I must be following in his footsteps because two years ago I went to my first
imaging conference in Las Vegas and was introduced to the selfie stick.
I came back home and advised our purchasing team to order this product, and yes,
we were the first to have the selfie stick on this infamous camera strip.
[Jeering and laughter]
I feel so blessed to have been born into such an established business; I also feel
excited to be the first female of the family line to be working at Michael’s.
It’s so timely that at such a milestone, the feminine touch is starting to permeate
throughout our identity and branding.
[Female audience members agree vigorously]
My vision is to see Michael’s become the creative hub of Australia; to nurture and
encourage creativity and expression; not necessarily just in photography, but in
other artistic and creative fields as well.
I’m extremely saddened that my grandfather Alan did not live to celebrate this
incredible momentous occasion with us.
Since his sudden passing only a few months ago, I have learned so much more
about who he was and I only wish I knew more about him while he was alive.
He was excited that I joined the business and we would always talk about the
resurgence of film photography.
He was fascinated by its comeback, as he experienced the digital revolution in the
tail end of his career.
As we have been in photographics for the majority of our trading, we have been
fortunate enough to experience and document firsthand this digital revolution.
Part of this exhibition focuses on this period of the last 25 years, and I thought I’d
point out a couple of things that I found most fascinating.
The first is an ad on a page of an article written in the year 2000, which was only
16 years ago; it advertises a 128 megabytes compact flash card for $458.
Another is some minutes from Melbourne camera club meeting in 1990; which
says, “There was a big bonus for us as Alan Michael, one of the owners of the
company, was also there; and he gave the first showing of a still video camera, just
introduced by Canon. It can be connected to a TV for showing, or with a special
accessory, the results can be viewed immediately; even out in the field; to check if
a dud picture can be erased and the frame used again!”
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time before digital photography, yet it wasn’t
that long ago.
There are few people I’d like to thank for helping make this night possible: Firstly
to Wendy Higgs.
For without her assistance and support, this night would not have come together so
smoothly; and we also would not have had the photo booth.
If anyone doesn’t know about this photo booth at the back, it was voted the world
best photo booth! All you do is press the button and it takes three photos and spits
out a strip - two copies - for each of you to take home; and they’re downloadable at
the end of the night. We’ll have, at some point in the next few days, we’ll have a
Please have fun! Take home something!
To Vee and Rachel, Max and Chris - who can’t be here tonight - for putting in
the hard yards and working as a really strong team to pull this all together.
To Chris Culpepper for providing staff photos from the 90’s and 2000’s to
contribute to the staff mural; to Hal Salta who insisted that this occasion is
shared and celebrated with the public, and who has made that happen; thank you!
To Di Roley who has been an incredible support to us with the short notice of
only one week; thank you!
You’ve been incredible and I’ve loved working with you!
To the staff of Michael’s, past and present, who without you, Michael’s would not
be in existence.
For those of you who may not know our business so well, Michael’s staff are like
one big family.
Some of our teams spend their entire careers with us, and I know I personally love
coming into work and being surrounded by people who I’ve known for most of my
life; and our customers, many of whom are here tonight; thank you for your
loyalty, support and inspiration!
The best part about working in my family business is that I get to spend all day
with my parents!
My mom, Fruma is the rock that keeps Michael’s strong.
Behind the scenes she is the force that keeps us together; thank you for your
patience and endless support!
Finally, my dad, Peter.
Wow! What an incredible human being you are.
Every day I am more inspired by you; your commitment to the shop is unfaultable;
your stamina is unimaginable; your memory is like an elephant; you know every
detail about what happens in this store; you personally reply to every single
customer when they provide feedback; you care; you’re passionate; you are so
humble; you are incredibly intelligent; there is no one like you.
You have transformed this business in the last 15 years, into something bigger than
what your great grandfather Emmanuel could have ever dreamed of!
You have brought us into our second century; you are simply amazing, and I just
love you, and I’m so proud to be your daughter and to learn from you every single
You are to be celebrated!
We are very much looking forward to my younger brother, David, to join our
business later this year; then we will truly be a full family business.
Thank you again for choosing to spend the night in celebration with us; it is such a
buzz to see so many people share this experience, which is truly special!
100 years! Wow, that is such a long time!
Enjoy the rest of the night, and please come in again to absorb the exhibition,
which will keep up over the summer.
To the next hundred years!
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