The Fyshwick Markets are up for sale, and could go for $60 million

By Brittney Levinson
Jack Irvine, co-owner of Fyshwick Markets and Wiffens, said Canberra's strong real estate activity made it a good time to sell the markets. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The co-owner of Canberra's iconic Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets says it's been "a good ride" but the time has come to put the venue up for sale while the real estate market is in its peak.

Jack Irvine and his wife Barbara, together with Jack's brother Alan Irvine, purchased Fyshwick Markets in 2016 for a reported $42 million.

Jack and Barbara had long been part of the market family, however, having owned and operated Wiffens green grocer in the precinct since 2007.

Fyshwick Markets will officially go up for sale next week under commercial real estate agency Burgess Rawson, with price expectations in excess of $60 million.

Mr Irvine said the decision to sell was simply an economic one.

"The market's very strong and I think now's the time to sell," he said.

"It's been a good ride, we enjoy having the markets but it's not a critical thing that we own it."

Mr Irvine, along with his son Dave, will continue to run Wiffens, which has traded well throughout Canberra's COVID-19 lockdown.

"We've got our business here and it's running very well, it's a good strong trading environment," he said.

"COVID has actually been good for the markets in as far as we've been one of the venues that's stayed open every day. We're a semi-outdoor venue, so it's quite easy to maintain spacing and safety and [there's] plenty of parking."

Kumvana Gomani, owner of Woven Design, standing inside the Vine stall at the Niche Markets. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

While the venue is yet to officially hit the market, whispers of the sale have already travelled through Canberra and beyond.

Burgess Rawson partner Billy Holderhead said private investors and syndicates were among the prospective buyers, including interested parties from Sydney and Melbourne.

"I think there's a pretty strong chance that the buyer would come from interstate, if it's a private [investor]," he said.

Currently trading four days a week, the markets are home to almost 40 retailers, including smaller stalls in the Niche Markets wing, which was completed in 2019.

The Canberra Times spoke to a number of market traders, some of whom were surprised by the news the owners were selling.

Kumvana Gomani, who owns Woven Design in the Niche Markets, said it was unfortunate the Irvine family were selling.

"They've been really kind to me as a tenant so it's sad, but I think they'll still be here so we'll still see their wonderful faces," she said.

Ms Gomani hoped the lively market atmosphere would continue under new ownership.

"I just hope that they stay in keeping with the vibe that's happening here because it's really lovely," she said.

Also surprised by the news, Mohamad Elmir, owner of The Nut Shoppe, said it had been a happy five years under the current ownership but he hoped to see a few changes ahead.

"There's a lot of unused space around. If they can help us shop owners with storage, build us sheds ... it would help us out a lot," he said.

Mohamad Elmir, owner of The Nut Shoppe, was surprised to hear the markets were going up for sale. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mr Holderhead said there was almost 1500 square metres of space that could be further developed on the site.

"There's certainly been interest from people already who are exploring whether or not you take [the markets] to seven-day trade or six-day trade ... others are exploring whether or not you could deck a car park and add more retail," he said.

"Even just letting it tick over as it is, it's going to be a very good investment for somebody."

Mr Irvine hoped the new owners had a good understanding of the market operation.

"We've seen a few examples of markets in Canberra that haven't really flowed from one buyer to the next very successfully," he said.

"I'd hope that we see someone come in that understands how it works and understands how the traders operate and keeps the whole thing rolling along."

Reflecting on almost six years of ownership, Mr Irvine said there weren't many major changes to the markets but a lot of maintenance to keep it "pretty well up to spec".

"I think probably one thing to hang your hat on is when you're leaving and people are saying they're sorry to see you go. So obviously, we did something right," he said.

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