Max Cooper is about to clock off as a watch and jewellery repairer for the last time, after selling the Footscray store that’s been in his family for 81 years.
The 94-year-old is reluctantly retiring as the owner and operator of M & N Cooper Jewellers — a gig that’s made him a local legend.
“They aren’t happy,” he said of his loyal customers, some of whom have been visiting him for half a century.
“Ladies have even started kissing me, which is unusual.”
Mr Cooper earned $1.175 million for his store at 251 Barkly St in a pre-auction sale last week.
His father bought the shop when it was brand new, back in 1938, and ran it as a tobacconist until he died in 1947.
Mr Cooper said his mum then took over, and added watch and jewellery repair to the store’s services after a “fella walked in one day” and suggested she expand the flourishing business.
“We thought, ‘that’s not a bad idea’,” Mr Cooper said.
He was working as a lecturer in engineering design at RMIT at the time, and one of his colleagues who happened to be trained in watch repair gave him private lessons.
“Gradually, I became more interested in jewellery than in lecturing,” he said.
“(I enjoyed) being good at something, and people were always so grateful for the things I was doing for them. It wasn’t just a business, it was a friendship with (my customers).”
Mr Cooper still serves “at least 10-20” people every day. He’ll have plenty of people to keep him busy in retirement as well, having three children, 15 grandchildren and 57 great-grandchildren.
Sweeney Footscray selling agent Lee Marks said the buyer planned to establish their own business at the property, but they were still working out the details.
Mr Marks said the historic store — one of the Angliss Shops constructed on Footscray’s “Golden Mile” in the 1930s — attracted more than 60 inquires.
“The phone was blowing up,” he said.
“We were selling an icon.”
The property also features a separate three-bedroom dwelling at the rear, offers activity centre zoning that gave prospective buyers “myriad opportunities”, and was accessible via Jimmy Wong Lane.
Mr Marks said the store also held personal history for him: “My whole family’s been coming to Mr Cooper’s since I was a kid,” he said.