For Ballarat’s Allison Jones, childhood was all about getting swept up in the wonder of Willy Wonka.
And now, she and partner Paul Matthews are bringing that experience back in a big way. Introducing, Sugar Republic- an entire pop-up museum dedicated to celebrating sweets and treats.
“[Sugar Republic] is about giving you the chance to re-live your childhood for an hour or so,” said Ms Jones.
Having grown up in the UK before a charming backpacker brought her down under, she fondly remembers afternoons marveling at Willy Wonka, Sherbet DipDab and having “no limits on sugar.”
That’s largely where the inspiration for Sugar Republic came from, with an Aussie, and slightly Ballaratian, twist. Homed in the former MacRobertson chocolate factory in Fitzroy (home to the humble Cherry Ripe and created by a Ballarat local much to Jones’ excitement), all the classics are there.
There’s an inflatable, human-sized gumball machine, stacks of wizz fizz, a cake big enough to jump out of, giant Bubble’O Bills and an adult-size pink ball pit.
“It’s been kind of like re-discovering sweet treats, through an Australian perspective,” said Ms Jones, marveling at guests’ enthusiasm for Iced Vovos and Wizz Fizz.
She’s taken inspiration from the local artists and creators helping her out as well, Caroline Khoo, Kate Pullen, Merrin Dorothy to name a few, believing collaboration a key element to her success.
It’s a process she enjoys back home in Ballarat, having many friends involved in the food and creative industries in the community, keeping her professional inspiration ticking.
The exhibition runs until August, but tickets to Sugar Republic have already sold out until mid-July, and online bookings necessary to make it through the door.
It’s not hard to find it on social media either, phones and cameras almost required at this exhibition.
The aesthetic element is something she’s always been interested in incorporating into a retail experience, over her years in the industry. “In previous businesses, I’ve always enjoyed an aesthetic that touches on childhood, taking retail into a place where you’re not just buying something, you’re getting an experience.”
Now stepping away from the direct retail world, she’s finding new ways to catch adults’ imaginations and bring back those child-like feelings.
Children are very welcome at this sugary exhibition but Ms Jones is “most interested in how adults respond,” with reactions often being that they “forgot just how they felt” when they were younger. There’s nothing quite like a giant ball pit to bring that back.
There are no definite plans, but Ms Jones and partner Mr Matthews would love to bring a “more bespoke” version of this exhibition back home to Ballarat in the future.
Sugar Republic is open from June 22- August 17. It can be found at 337 Smith Street, Fitzroy. Tickets are available the Sugar Republic website.