Melbourne’s iconic classical music specialist store Thomas’ Music will close its doors forever this month after 96 years. The store, located in what was the first State Savings Bank of Victoria at 31 Bourke St, will be rapidly selling off all remaining stock of classical CDs, DVDs and vinyl at cost – both in store and online, it said in a statement, citing an increasingly challenging music retail environment as the reason for winding up the business. “In the face of online sales and streaming, and a dwindling retail environment, management have chosen to exit gracefully,” the store’s statement said.

Thomas' MusicThomas’ Music. Photo ©

The news will come as a blow to Melbourne classical music enthusiasts who prefer the in-person retail experience rather than shopping online. “I think a lot of people still like to shop, particularly somewhere they can engage with likeminded individuals,” Thomas’ managing director Elisabeth Vodicka told Limelight. “Shopping online and streaming can be a more isolating experience and is not always available to everyone. Classical music doesn’t appear to have been embraced by digital customers in the same way as other more popular genres. However, many of the older or more esoteric recordings are now only available as a digital download, which makes our job even more precarious. So surviving this long has definitely been a challenge.”

Thomas’ Music opened in July 1922 as a Piano, Organ, Phonograph and Musical warehouse on the corner of Exhibition and Bourke Streets, eventually moving to its current location at the Spring St end of Bourke St in 1994.

Thomas’ Music. Photo ©

“I started at Thomas’ in the mid-80s as a teenager and was immediately enamoured by the clientele and ambience of the store,” Vodicka said. “That was always the highlight – who was going to walk in the door? Musicians, politicians, actors, comedians and a wide range of interesting professional people who just wanted to browse or chat about music. John Clarke was a much loved ‘staff favourite’ and I’ll never forget Joan Kirner, upon seeing only women behind the counter one day, announcing ‘there’s been a revolution!’ You just need to browse our autograph collection to realise the wide appeal and reputation of Thomas’ Music.”

Thomas’ Music has been one of the last bastions of classical music retail in Australia, so will the reduction of such specialist stores affect the accessibility of the artform and the size of its audience? “I’ve had a lot of people say to me: ‘…but where will I go if there is no Thomas’?” Vodicka said. “So yes, I think there will be a detrimental effect in the short term. But then people will, no doubt, regroup and discover new avenues of accessibility.”

“Thomas’ Music have for a long time offered a unique and personal service no longer available in most retail stores,” Vodicka said. “We will sadly miss all our wonderful and unique customers and know they will continue to find joy in the music they bought from us.”

For more information about Thomas’ Music clearance sale click here.