IN the twilight years of his life, Robert Gates developed dementia and began to forget all the things he loved.
For his son, Rowan, it was devastating to see his father begin to deteriorate, especially after his sister, Janine, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease shortly before.
"It's a shocking disease," he says of his sister's illness. "It stops your life."
So when his father died about two years ago and his sister's condition worsened, Mr Gates decided to make a difference.
His idea was to open an opportunity shop to raise money for charities researching both diseases.
He did not lack for stock. As a cleaner for the past 20 years, he had a shed full of unused items that were too good to throw away. "I thought I had to do something with it," he said.
But with little experience of retail he overlooked the importance of location.
With his heart on his sleeve, Mr Gates opened his shop about 18 months ago in Oakleigh. He settled on the name Barcode Exempt, a clever twist on the fact he was dealing only in second-hand goods, and a phrase that he saw in a newspaper headline.
But the hoped-for regular donations to Alzheimer's Australia and Motor Neurone Australia have not eventuated. Barcode Exempt has struggled to attract people, mostly because of its remoteness from Oakleigh's central business area.
Barcode Exempt is on Burlington Street, almost one kilometre away from Oakleigh's retail heart and is overstocked with whitegoods, clothes, music and furniture.
"I haven't been able to raise enough money," he says. "I was hoping that by the end of the financial year that we would have enough in the bank to write a cheque for each charity, and go from there."
As its sole operator, Mr Gates has been struggling to find the time to continue running the store while he works full-time at his cleaning business.
Mr Gates pleaded with locals who had some spare time to drop by the store and help sort, tidy and sell stock. He not only wants customers, but volunteers to staff the store as well. Having made a start, even a slow one, he says: "I'd hate it to close."
Barcode Exempt is at 42 Burlington Street, Oakleigh. Locals interested in volunteering can contact Rowan Gates on 0411 743 213.