The Sausage Factory
March 23, 2023
A brief history of our office, fondly known as the Sausage Factory, by its inhabitants.
These days, the junction of Preston and Thornbury in Melbourne’s inner north is full of cafes, restaurants and boutique beers. Artisan ice cream in a former shoe-maker’s shop, arthouse movies in a previous corner service station and mechanic. Yoga in a former dancehall with soaring ceilings, Melbourne’s best Portuguese tarts in what used to be a two-dollar shop, and a storytelling company in a brick building that used to be a sausage factory.
Hyphen has been resident in a part of the old Otto Wurth factory for almost ten years now, buying after developers had to leave it be in the sea of new apartment blocks springing up like mushrooms in the area. ‘It looks like a children’s drawing of a factory building. I love that!’ Hyphen owner Neil Montagnana-Wallace says.
Otto Wurth emigrated to Australia in the 1920s from Germany. He opened his first smallgoods store in Richmond in 1934 and was so successful that his operation outgrow that place the same year. He moved to Johnson Street, Fitzroy, until 1958 when he needed even bigger premises and moved to ‘pork town’ – Preston – in 1958. There, a stuck his name on the building that had already been used by a ham and bacon curing factory, Watson and Paterson, who’d been in the area since all the way back in 1862.
Originally, the building was a small, weatherboard construction, but by the time Otto took possession of it, it was the same solid red-brick factory Hyphen is in today plus some other buildings that combined to house his entire operations. In fact, it had been that way since the 1920s.
Hyphen operates out of one quarter of the remaining old slaughterhouse, producing books and films where once bacon and cured meats were made. The other three quarters of the building are residential apartments. ‘As Otto Wurth residents, we live and work in a building and a place that has had a buzzing, interesting previous life. High Street has changed almost unrecognisably over the years, and the repurposing of what had become a derelict building is our part in that. For storytellers, there’s no better place to work!’