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ABICUS: The best of fashion and music in Newcastle

Ever since it opened back in 2000, ABICUS has been my favourite store. Run by husband and wife duo Tim McPhee (yes, of Firekites fame) and Tiffany Minell, ABICUS brings the best of fashion and music together and serves it up on a shiny slab of amazingly polished concrete. We caught up with Tiff to talk about life before ABICUS, reopening ABICUS in its brand new location, and opening a sister store, Scout.

LAEM: Tell us about your original vision for ABICUS and how you guys first started out.
T: ABICUS opened in October 2000. We originally wanted to open a record store but knew it wouldn’t be entirely sustainable on its own so we added fashion into the mix. Both music and fashion have such a strong influence on each other it seemed like a logical combination. We picked up a handful of independent fashion labels and grew from there. At the time there wasn’t much on offer locally fashion wise: just surf shops and your big chain stores. We were really blown away by just how fast ABICUS took off.

LAEM: What were you guys doing before ABICUS?
T: I was working as a retail music store manager. I also wrote reviews, interviewed and photographed bands for street press and a couple of zines. Tim was working as a graphic designer, photographer, sign writer and at a local music instrument store.

LAEM: You’ve just moved ABICUS to a new location. Tell us about the design of the new store.
T: Tim and I actually did the entire interior and furniture design ourselves without professional shop fitters or an architect – including hand-picking all the timbers used and custom wallpaper from our own photographs of Black Butt Nature Reserve. Inside the eyewear cabinet we’ve got a background of a clouded blue Merewether sky, which was from one of our photos also. It definitely has Tim and I stamped all over the store which is pretty special for us.

LAEM: What was behind opening Scout (at 122-124 Darby St)?
T: There were a few reasons, actually. Firstly, we didn’t want to give up our original location as we built our home and following there for so long. The building itself is such a treasure: the tiled brass trim frontage, the ancient rickety timber floors, the high ceilings. We are also lucky enough to be working with some really fantastic Australian labels, many of whom produce collections every month. We couldn’t physically fit them all in one store!

With women’s fashion being our main category, and with a customer base as broad as 12 to 60 years old, we thought it’d be super cool to divide our offering a little. At Scout, you will now find our more trend driven labels like Minkpink, Evil Twin … girly, fun, free-spirited.. And the new ABICUS is more about timeless classics: Vanishing Elephant, Something Else, Secret South etc. Scout is the little sister to ABICUS.

ABICUS is open at 103 Darby Street, and Scout is open at 122-124, Darby Street, Cooks Hill in NSW, Australia.


About the author

Cormack is a Melbourne based freelance writer and photographer. He loves to travel, drink red wine, and spin records. On the weekends you’ll most likely find him eating pork buns or shaking up cocktails for his friends.

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