Legends of the Mall

Most of us remember the uniquely dressed man who strode the length of Rundle Mall 10 times a day, sometimes wearing nothing but speedos and gumboots. (Perhaps the speedos were a futuristic homage to our recently fallen PM? Who knows.)

The man was Johnny Haysman and while it’s been a few years since he paced the Mall, he’ll always be part of the fabric of this colourful shopping strip. His white leotard and koala shaped backpack ensure his position in the list of Mall Legends.

Andy Salvanos, Busker

Rundle Mall is a peculiar place. Where else can you buy South Australian-made shoes in a tobacco shop? There’s a community with heart and soul here, just ask busker Andy Salvanos. Andy was eating a snack by the Myer Centre when he heard someone approaching. “Your music helped me through some very difficult times. Thank you," Andy heard.

It was not an isolated incident. “Another person heard me performing at Flinders Hospital during her chemotherapy,” he says. “She felt that it had helped her recovery.”

Andy’s instrument of choice is the Chapman Stick, an electric member of the guitar family he picked up in Los Angeles in 1999. “Playing a bit of an oddball instrument, I feel like I've had to earn the respect of fellow musicians and the public, but that's part of the thrill,” Andy says.

“The music I make is a direct result of everything I've done in my life, translated into melodies of happiness, sorrow, melancholy, nostalgia, love and loss. I've never considered what I do an ‘act’ – it's just me wearing my heart on my sleeve.”

Brenton Whittenbury, Barlow Shoes

Some Mall legends have earned their status by length of service. Take Brenton Whittenbury at Barlow Shoes. Six generations of his family have worked in the shoe business – an heirloom that was passed down to him more than 30 years ago. “Strangely enough, I started working here on my 21st birthday in 1982,” Brentonn says. “The Charles Street store is now managed by my daughter Sarah.”

Brenton’s family business, Judd’s Shoes, opened in 1868 on Rundle Street and acquired the almost 70-year-old Barlow in the 1961. Barlow moved from the Mall to Charles Street a year ago, but its signature brands remain the same. “This store concentrates on Converse and Dr Martens,” Brenton says. “We cater to people looking for those iconic brands.”

Cheri Spargo (Brunt), Bell and Brunt Master Jewellers

Another iconic name in the Mall is Bell & Brunt. The jewellery business started in 1925 with Edgar Bell Senior. His son Edgar Bell Junior and William Brunt began as apprentices to help with retail repairs and soon became Master Jewellers. William’s son Keith opened the business to the public in the 1960s and was joined by his now-wife Glenda in sales, followed by his son Rob and his cousin who were Manufacturing Jewellers.

CEO Cheri Spargo (nee Brunt) says there are six family members still working in the business. “All of Keith’s daughters have worked in sales for the business for a number of years,” Cheri says. “Now Keith’s grandchildren are working as Manufacturing Jewellers as well.”

Each piece of jewellery begins with a gold or platinum bar and is handcrafted, filed and sculpted. Bell & Brunt jewellers even use mouth blowpipes to direct fire to the pot that needs heating. Clients can sit in on their pieces being made, as the six in-house jewellers are in the showroom using traditional methods of creation. “We are now manufacturing engagement and wedding rings for the great grandchildren of our original clients and their friends and family!” Cheri says.

Robert Berry, Manhattan Dry Cleaners

You can also earn legend status with a dramatic story or two. Robert and Bronwyn Berry at Manhattan Dry Cleaners share a tale that’s tough to beat. It was 2am on a Sunday morning in August 1980 when the phone rang. Third generation dry-cleaner Robert Berry was sleeping at the home of his wife Bronwyn’s parents. “The Arcade’s on fire!” his father in-law called. “You’ve got to go!”

“We stood in Grenfell Street and watched it burn,” Robert says. “There was nothing we could do.” When Adelaide Arcade was no longer alight, Bronwyn and Robert were thrilled to see their firewalls caused the flames to leap over their shop.

“All the work inside was destroyed by smoke damage and all of Gay’s Arcade was completely destroyed,” Robert says. “As were our suits that we had for our wedding.”

“Luckily, Peter Shearer came to our rescue with a couple of weeks to go,” Bronwyn says. “We didn’t get the suits that we wanted, but never mind.”

Long-standing tenants Clarke The Jeweller, Ciao Coffee Bar, Bonnie Wigs and Terry Gasson Bespoke Tailor are what make the atmosphere so good, according to the dry-cleaning duo, who have won awards for the quality of their work. “We all know each other, it’s like a family,” Bronwyn says. “It’s just a pleasure to be here.”

Adding pleasure to the Mall is what Johnny Gorski at ReRun Records & Photography does best. When Johnny walked into a record store for the first time 25 years ago, he fell in love.

“Instead of doing drugs, I was into records,” Johnny laughs. “I wanted to collect – this is my hobby. My father gave me money to buy my first records. Now I’ve got 30-odd boxes of albums at home.”

Five years ago, Johnny moved his business to Renaissance Arcade to start a serious collector’s boutique also featuring vintage cameras, with co-owners John Siviour and Stuart Percival. The guys have a fascinating collection of historic black and white prints of Adelaide on display. It all results in one of the most interesting stores in South Australia. And Johnny provides a constantly changing soundtrack to your cultural experience.

“If you’re angry you put a rock album on – if you’re happy you put Village People on,” Johnny smiles. “It’s the spice of life!”

Jennifer Hsiao, Vegetarian Garden

More recent Mall arrives, Jennifer Hsiao and husband Chili Tseng from Vegetarian Garden in Renaissance Arcade, are quickly establishing their legendary status with their expertise in delicious and interesting vegetarian cuisine. The pair owned a cafe in their native Taiwan where the cooking style is popular, before buying the Vegetarian Garden almost seven years ago. “We’re trying to make people see vegetarian food as more than steamed veggies!” Jennifer says. “We can make so different types of delicious vegetarian food.”