We are sure Fitzroy locals have spotted the giant spaceship themed van that is parked in the middle of our 433 Brunswick Street Fitzroy op shop, it’s too big to miss, like an elephant in the room.
Shiny and silver, adorned with technical features most would recognize from a 1970’s sci-fi movie, this van belonged to store volunteer Adrian Jordan, known by locals as ‘The Space Van Man’.
Its permanent parking spot rests in the middle of the store. Customers, volunteers and staff orbit around it daily. The van is a homage to Adrian, a reminder to the team of a dear friend and long-standing Fitzroy op shop volunteer who is no longer with them.
During Melbourne’s lockdown in 2020, Sacred Heart Mission’s 12 op shops closed for over three months. For the staff and volunteers who worked within the stores, their routines were paused, and shifts were cancelled. For many of our staff and volunteers, the closure of the op shops during lockdown was difficult. For many, their sense of purpose was locked down along with the city. This was also a struggle for Adrian Jordan, who passed away during the lockdown.
For the Fitzroy store, the loss of an integral team member and friend was extremely painful.
Damian, Fitzroy’s op shop coordinator has been with the store for the past seven years and has helped foster and nourish the creativity of his team.
“When I first met Adrian, he was an enigma,” says Damian. “I knew nothing of his van and his local persona. He arrived, volunteered and almost immediately left for Thailand. I would get updates via email, but he disappeared for a time creating his out-of-this-world art and then just like that, popped up at the store again one day asking what work needed to be done.”
At an event at the Fitzroy op shop in 2019, Adrian stood at the door, with a top hat on and greeted each customer as they walked in.
“Welcome to the best op shop in the universe,” he would say.
Adrian was the op shop’s unofficial handy man; he would find the strangest donation and reinvent it, turning it into something wholly unique, and decorate the store with it.
Damian recalls, “We received a donation of kitsch wallpaper. I loved it because of its ugliness but my colleagues expressed the opposite reaction to it. Adrian gave me a look of understanding that led to the staff toilet being enveloped by a pastel and faux meadow decor that he triumphantly wallpapered. We both understood that the bathroom would become an expression of him, that it was a piece of art, much like his famous Space Van.”
Along the journey of Adrian’s time at the store, Sacred Heart Mission’s op shops became involved in the famous Fitzroy Mills Market every Saturday. An early morning routine of setting up the stall by staff was always interrupted by Adrian’s arrival, dressed in high viz from head to toe, driving into the market on his bike waving “Greetings Earthlings!” Adrian would staff the stall for the day and helped establish relationships with neighboring stalls and local businesses, the perfect advocate for Sacred Heart Mission.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our stores. Without them, our op shops simply could not function. Each volunteer brings a different shade of colour to our stores, sharing their knowledge, life experience and passion with our teams.
What sets Sacred Heart Mission’s op shops apart from the rest is the sense of individualism and community spirit. There is always something happening at our op shops and this is thanks to the creativeness, enthusiasm and passion from our community.
No two stores are the same at Sacred Heart Mission, and that is because of our volunteers.
Upon reflection of Adrian’s work within the store, the op shop has become an even closer gang of misfits. From Paul’s work with the LGBTIQA+ community to the store’s regular silent window art auctions, this store is a special place for volunteers.
For Damian and his team, the van is not only a tribute to Adrian, it also stands as a loving reminder of the importance of positive mental health, the impact Covid-19 has had on us all and the strength of our community.
”It was a great honor that Adrian’s family has entrusted us all at Sacred Heart Mission’s Fitzroy store with the custodianship of his iconic Space Van,” Damian shares. “It sits proudly smack bang in the center of the store and feels like it has always been there. Being able to watch people interact with it, in particular children, brings tears to our eyes. It is a real privilege.”
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