Jocelyn Petroni grins as she gazes up at the six-metre high ceiling in her epony- mously named Woollahra salon, nestled on the up- permost floor of a renovated ter- race near the top of Queen St.
“The salon has always been nicer than my own home,” the Darling Point resident confides with a touch of awe. “Everything I’ve earned I’ve always put back into that space. I’m highly aesthetic, so making this space feel beautiful has been my dream”.
There are beauty therapists, and there are beauty therapists. And Petroni, referred to as “the skin whisperer” by those who are ex- perts in such things as they swoon over her skill, is one of Sydney’s most highly sought after facialists and manicurists, visited by names such as Miranda Kerr and Kate Fowler. Invited into her inner sanctum, we find ourselves in The Gallery, the newest addition to the salon, which she relocated from Paddington two-and-a-half years ago to the leafy street considered the heart and soul of the east.
It is the location for our Went- worth Courier cover shoot with Petroni and her dear friend, jewel- ler and soon to be neighbour on the famous street, Matthew Ely, and the pair dance, laugh and chat throughout. It’s a huge moment in ime for Ely, who is poised to open a concept boutique a few doors down from Petroni’s salon next month. The 33-year-old rusty haired society jeweller, who moved into a store around the cor- ner on Ocean St five years ago after branching out from the longstand- ing family business, York Jewell- ers, has become a beloved part of the Woollahra community.
Last year, he designed a glorious $31,500 aquamarine and diamond ring for the famous Bistro Moncur Ladies Lunch fundraiser for the Royal Hospital for Women. But, as Ely puts it, nothing com- pares with the move to Queen St, “I’m coming into the heart of the community, not just the out- skirts,” he says. Queen St, with its unique parade of historic dwell- ings and shopfronts, occupies al- most mythical status in the east.
On the corner of Moncur St stands the Woollahra Hotel. Across the road, the pink walls of Queens Court — where residents include the Luxe cafe hub and more recently, innovative interior designer Michelle Macorounas — have become an Instagram must.
Indeed, while the reassuring presence of established forces such as Anne Schofield, Robyn Cosgrove and Shapiro auction house form the bulwarks of the street, and Victor Churchill — “the world’s most beautiful butcher” — has been a drawcard since burst- ing on to the scene nine years ago, the winds of change are again blowing through the falling leaves of the plane trees.
Lately, Cafe Parterre at the back of Annie Wilke’s landscape gar- dening mecca has become the des- tination cafe for the style set. Annie Cannon-Brookes has House of Cannon studio close to Simon Johnson Providore.
And symbolic of the new guard are the fresh faces of Petroni and Ely. Their almost familial bond is evident on Petroni’s perfectly manicured hands, after Ely collaborated with Petroni’s husband, stockbroker John Clarkson to de- sign her engagement ring and wedding bands for the couple’s nuptials which took place in February this year.
“My wife Nicole and I were invited, and we were sitting there during the ceremony, and it’s always a nerve-racking experience when the rings are going on and you’re just hoping they fit and that every- one’s happy and loves them; but it all went swimmingly,” Ely says. “It was perfect.”
Petroni glows and sparkles as vividly as one of Ely’s highest clar- ity diamonds. Said glow could be from her recent honeymoon to Bali or her salon’s famous treatments, or both. Every inch of the new salon space lends itself to relaxation, from the pastel Vicki Lee and Ted O’Donnell art adorning the walls to the haunting sounds of Indian singer Jai- Jagdeesh, whose devotional hymns play quietly in the background. “I’ve never enjoyed working in salons that are small cu- bicles, with no oxygen and fresh light, and I used to imagine my ideal space as having a sheer, white cur- tain that would waft with the wind, and have the sun coming through and greenery outside. That’s what I have now.”
Petroni is a master of her craft, and while beauty therapy has be- come a relatively new addition to the historic shopping strip, she shares the same immaculate atten- tion to detail and high standards offered by the traditional vendors that have preceded her.
Nestled between the lush, green sanctuary of Centennial Park- lands and the busy thoroughfares of Oxford and Ocean streets, the Woollahra shopping precinct has been a jewel in the East’s geo- graphical crown since as far back as the late 1800s when, as James Jervis writes in local history book,The History of Woollahra, the area was first considered one of Syd- ney’s most fashionable.
For decades Sydney’s go-to area for art and antiques, Queen St is a trickier destination for clothing re- tail although those stores that en- dure have a loyal following. The restaurant and cafe mix changes enough to keep life interesting, while young business owners like Petroni and Ely, bring an eclectic new vibe.
Another card carrying member of the club is designer Melissa Collison whose studio is four doors down from Petroni’s salon. Ely has entrusted her with the refit of the shop he will occupy in the coming weeks. It boasts an outdoor courtyard adorned with olive trees where customers can reflect on their purchases.
As for the design brief, that was relatively simple: “I wanted it to look like no other jewellery shop,” says Ely. He chose Collison for her “fun personality” and the fact she had never designed a jewellery store before. Leaving nothing to change, she presented him with 60 pages of documents. It also helped that she was “of the street”.
For Ely, this sense of community is paramount: “we go to work and hang out and be with people we enjoy to be around, there is a net- work of friends and community”.
His talents for jewellery design aside, it’s easy to see why the fa- ther-of-two from Penrith has built a strong following in the eastern suburbs in a few short years. He is friendly, charming and passionate about his work.
This demeanour is on display when the shoot moves outdoors and he bumps into a client mo- ments after stepping onto Queen St. “How’s the family?” he asks her warmly. “You’ll have to come in soon for a clean and sparkle.”
His list of regular customers, which include some of Sydney’s wealthiest people, is a closely guarded secret. “I run into my clients on the street constantly and it’s really beautiful,” Ely says, smiling broadly. “Jewellery is among people’s most prized possessions, so I find I will build a relationship with my clients that lasts well beyond the purchase.
“I think I’m blessed and lucky that my clients place so much trust in me.”
Hairdresser George Giavis has observed the evolution of the Queen St shopping village from the second floor window of his salon since it opened 25 years ago. “My clients often tell me that after searching for a dress or a gift for a special occasion, that they usually end up finding what they were looking for on Queen St.”
President of the Queen Street & West Woollahra Association Ken Gresham notes that while Queen St’s retail offering has evolved, its look and feel has hardly changed since the late 19th century and nei- ther has the focus on craftsman- ship.
“If you go to council and see photos of it 120 years ago, it looks almost identical,” he says. “The mix has changed, of course, but it still has small trad- ers at the exclusive end of (their in- dustries).”
Fine art collectors, tourists and the odd celebrity are regularly spotted, but Mr Gresham believes it’s the loyal patronage of both young and elderly local residents that keeps the village thriving.
“Most of the business is done by locals, and for that reason store owners get to know you, the sorts of things you do, what you like to eat and the rest,” he explains.
“People in this area are relatively wealthy but at the same time very pound-wise.
“No one comes here to save money but they do come here for the unique, the interesting, and the stylish.”
Words by Elle Halliwell for Wentworth Courier