The Michael family has traded from this address at the corner of Melbourne's Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets since 1916.
The Managing Director is Peter Michael, whose great-grandfather erected the Michaels Building in 1916, and traded as a pawnbroker and gunsmith. In 1928, Peter's grandfather opened a pharmacy in the building with limited stocks of photographic equipment. Peter's father, Alan joined the family pharmacy business in 1950, and later graduated as a pharmacist himself.
Alan's fascination for photography led to the expansion of the photo department in the store. At the time, there were tight import restrictions on cameras from after the war until the late 1950's.
By 1966, the business traded primarily as a pharmacy and expanded - taking over a significant amount of the ground floor of the building and basement storage.
By 1976, the photographic side represented 80 per cent of total turnover. The Michael family closed the pharmacy section to concentrate solely on photographics, eventually expanding to operate from three whole floors. The idea of one large store as opposed to several outlets is integral to the Michael's philosophy. The Michael family believes that dividing key personnel between different locations would lead to a compromise in management resources, depth of stock holdings, and customer service.
Although situated in one location, the business size is the equivalent of five or so specialty camera outlets. It has achieved this status primarily due to the enormous range and depth of stock kept and the depth of knowledge of employees and their attention to providing a very high level of customer service.
In 1988, 1997 and again in 2012, Michaels was awarded the prestigious "Australian Photographic Dealer of the Year" award. The award is judged by a panel of industry experts, and is based on criteria such as staff expertise, range of stock, store cleanliness, quality of window displays and presentation and adherence to high business principles.
The Michaels building has expanded into the two adjacent buildings on Elizabeth Street and Lonsdale Street, and spans 2200sqm, which has significantly enhanced and improved the retail and operational environments, in addition to the range and depth of products available.