The Fisher name has a long history in Victoria, with countless country towns across the state home to a Fishers IGA. The first family store was opened in 1911 and, by the time the business was sold in 2015, 16 supermarkets bore the Fisher name.
Overseeing the sale was Alan Fisher, the fourth generation owner of the business. And it’s fair to say that, when he decided to move away from supermarkets, he wasn’t thinking about jumping straight back into retail. Yet, while enjoying a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale in Byron Bay with wife Sarah and contemplating their next move, the road back to retail began.
The pair’s love for beer led to almost inevitable discussions about how they’d like to start their own brewery. But, after some consideration, they felt the country’s swelling number of breweries might be enough and instead chose to focus on selling the beer they enjoyed.
On returning to Melbourne, Alan and Sarah decided to open their own bar and bottleshop. They set about creating Fishers Craft Beer Bar, and the Fisher name was once again connected to retail, albeit this time it was less about fresh produce and more about fresh IPAs.
Not content to wait for a physical store to get into the world of craft beer, however, the idea of an online side to Fishers was soon devised. Launching in time for Christmas 2017, the online store has a particular focus on hampers, with beers chosen and arranged based on the regions they are from.
Australian, New Zealand, American and European hampers all showcase much-adored beers from each area alongside classic beer-friendly snacks. The idea to focus on beer regions over beer styles stems from a desire to highlight quality beers coming out of each place, while also offering enough variety in terms of styles to take beers fans on a journey. Beyond hampers, the store also has a growing number of both Australian and international beers, which are shipped across the country.
As for the bar itself, it opened in winter 2018 and is an impressive one, after the modern, craftier Fishers found their home in Melbourne’s second oldest pharmacy, located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne. Originally built in 1856, by the time Alan and Sarah took it over, the appearance suggested the door had been shut some 50 years earlier with the building remaining untouched like a time capsule.
Following a lengthy period spent navigating red tape with the local council, Fishers Craft Beer Bar occupies four storeys, turning the building’s small footprint into a sprawling space to explore. The original stained glass windows have been restored, while the pharmacy’s apothecary, will turn its focus to a rather different cure for what ails you.
The Fishers team intends the bar and bottleshop to have one of the most impressive bottle lists south of the Yarra, with venue, bottleshop and online operation all working as one. Whether it’s over the bar, for takeaway or shipped to a drinker’s home, the aim is to sell as large a range of unique beers as possible.
While running a beer business might be worlds removed from running supermarkets in northern Victoria, there’s a feeling this is the start of a new Fishers set to be around for generations to come.