A milk bar, just one little milk bar. Is dairy the word in NZ? Drug store in the US? Amazingly against the onslaught of extended supermarket hours, 711s, and many other convenience stores, some milk bars have survived. Let me tell you of one near my work place.
We start in the early 1980s. Supermarket trading hours were quite restricted. There were a few 711s around, but they were large places and funnily, opened between 7am and 11pm. The milk bar I speak of was a vibrant business. Sandwiches, coffee, deep fryer, papers, ice creams, bread, milk, pies and pasties, coffee, lollies, yep the full on mega milk bar. Plus, it was a Tattslotto agency.
The local newsagent was new. He coveted the local milkbar because it had a Tatslotto agency. He bought the milk bar and installed his mother in it and she ran it well enough. After a year or so, he transferred the Tattslotto agency to his newsagency. It may have taken that long for administrative reasons or tax reasons. There was no longer a reason for the newsagent to own a milk bar and he sold it on as a successful business. It was then owned for a few more years by some Aussies but then it was sold to some Asian born people.
They did initially try to run it as a business to make money. I recall the Chinese Mama chasing a school boy from one or your most exclusive schools down the street because he had snitched something. But the milk bar was looking tired and dingy. My Thai workmate explained to me, it is an immigration thing. They have some money to invest in a business and they invest without caring or understanding about the business. It is just a tool to stay here.
The faces seemed to change and I stopped patronising the business. On the odd occasion I did go in, a slovenly Chinese woman in a pilled tracksuit eventually appeared from out the back to serve me. Sorry to have bothered you. The deep fryer had not been used for years, the pie oven was long cold and the ice cream selection very poor. A few packets of crisps sat on a dirty chrome frame. I expect almost all stock was out of date.
I really did stop going there in the early 2000s. By then cheap overseas phone call stickers on the filthy exterior window had obscured the filthy state of the interior.
By about 2007 I never saw a customer enter the shop and around that time, it closed.
Then in 2008, activity started happening. Gone were the stickers on the windows, it was being cleaned inside and out and getting a minor renovation. I think they were a Maori couple who took it over, Islander at least.
Then it seemed to change hands again in 2009 with Australian born owners. More renovations and smartening up. Outdoor seating and tables added, music outside from speakers. It was now looking very inviting.
Slowly and slowly the numbers are building up again. Still no where near what they were but it is on its way back to being a successful business. I wish it well.