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From subway to Southbank, Brian Hsieh embraces his new life

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Brendan Rees

Like many small business owners, the pandemic has been far from easy for Brian Hsieh who has embraced his new home in Southbank.

While he made it through two years of lockdowns, the owner of Sublink computer and mobile phone repairs will now have to close the doors of his store at the Campbell Arcade under Flinders Street Station after 15 years due to no fault of his own.

He is one of a few traders at the arcade who have been told by Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) to move out by the end of April before construction gets underway for the new Flinders Link walkway, which will connect Flinders Street Station to the new Town Hall station.

Tenants have known since 2017 that their leases would end as early as 2019 but because of delays the works have been pushed back to this year.

While it has created great uncertainty for tenants – not least the pandemic – Mr Hsieh has taken on the challenges all in his stride.

He’s not resentful, bitter or wanting to point the blame at others – instead, Mr Hsieh said he was staying optimistic, having entered a business partnership about a year ago in preparation for his move to Southbank.

Despite revenue dropping to 50 per cent at the height of the lockdowns, Mr Hsieh kept afloat thanks to the support of his loyal customer base.

The father of two young children continues to work three days a week at the arcade, also known as the Degraves St subway, while slowly making the shift to his Southbank shop called Laptop Kings at Gladstone St, which had been established by his business partner Frank Giunta about three years ago in the Montague Precinct.

“I feel I have some responsibility for those people. They come from the city and everywhere,” Mr Hsieh said of his clients.

“Some people told me they will follow me no matter where I go.”

He also added it had been somewhat of relief to have a move-out date, saying, “in the beginning we were a bit upset but after a few years we’re okay.”

While he is not confident of being able to move back to the arcade when construction is complete, Mr Hsieh said he looked forward to building his business in Southbank as he promised to offer the best service possible.

RPV said it had been working closely with the tenants of Campbell Arcade over several years to provide support during construction of the Metro Tunnel, including providing free rent since 2019 and supporting them to find new tenancies ahead of upcoming works on Flinders Link. 

“We are currently working through the possibility of long-term tenants being able to return to the arcade after construction is finished, but we are unable to guarantee long-term tenure at this time,” RPV said •

 

Caption: Brian Hsieh with business partner Frank Giunta at their Southbank shop called Laptop Kings. Photo: Brendan Rees.

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