Inner East Review

Swan St business Casley Jeweller's will close on Friday after more than 60 years

JD
Updated June 22 2022 - 4:25am, first published June 21 2022 - 4:00am
Jeweller Danny Velleman closes up shop this week after 34 years on Swan St. Photo Morgan Hancock
Jeweller Danny Velleman closes up shop this week after 34 years on Swan St. Photo Morgan Hancock

This Friday Danny Velleman will close the doors on his Richmond jewellers shop, by far the longest-running business in Swan St.

"The decision to leave was the hardest one I've ever had to make," he says.

"Part of me is very, very sad to be leaving. And part of me understands that's what I need to do."

The decision was made just a few weeks ago when he found out the shop - which needs such significant repair it will have to be gutted - is about to be sold.

"If the new owners still wanted me, I would have to come back to a shell after the work is done, and I really don't want to spend $250,000 at this stage to refurbish," he says.

"So I look forward to the next bit."

Danny was 25 in 1988 when he and his father took over Casley Jeweller's, which at that point had been in business for at least 25 years.

Swan St was "a Greek area" full of retailers in those days.

"There was Dimmeys, there was jean shops, there was clothing shops, there was all sorts of shops around," Danny says.

Julien Velleman, a jeweller, who had had shops in Coburg, brought his son in to learn the business with him with the idea he would take it over.

Before that Danny had spent seven years at the Commonwealth Bank, "which in those days was a service industry".

"So the customer service side was similar but the actual work involved was completely different, and I had to learn it from scratch.

"Dad taught me everything he knew and I learnt more than he could ever teach me."

Working with his father was "fun and games", Danny recalls. "We often clashed, especially in the early days."

But while they had their moments, father and son always recovered from them. "We'd say our piece, get it out of the way."

After Julien sold him the business at cost price and retired in the mid-nineties, Danny found he could run the place alone and couldn't justify the expense of staff.

Like other shopping strips, Swan St was changing, with retail increasingly moving into big centres like Chadstone, and later, online.

Resizing and repairs continued to be the bread and butter of Casley's, while challenging jobs like intricate watch repairs and custom-made jewellery were the most satisfying side of it for Danny, who has made hundreds of rings-to-order over the years.

He estimates 70 to 80 per cent of his customers are regulars, and has always been grateful for them.

Doing the hands-on work after hours has kept him in "virtually a seven-day-a-week job" over more than three decades.

A few years ago he had a heart attack, and he is looking forward to slowing down - playing golf, "travelling a bit" and working part-time doing mobile repairs.

"We'll be on the Richmond 3121 Facebook page," he has been telling customers.

Danny announced the closure of the business on the 3121 page two weeks ago, and has been deeply touched and "humbled" by the hundreds of expressions of sadness and gratitude he has received since.

Community members have called him a "Richmond icon" and thanked him for his "old fashioned service and realistic prices", speedy repairs and welcoming nature.

They have also expressed sadness about a loss of the history the shop represents - as a place where people's parents shopped, and as a landmark from "the days when Swan St was an interesting place".

Several people wrote simply, "You will be missed".

JD

Jenny Denton

Journalist

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