Lazy Luddite Log


Seven Shops

Some of my most mundane subject matter on Facebook is also the most popular. The following post some months ago generated discussion exceeding two hundred comments:

Imagine you have moved to a different neighbourhood and are told there is a row of seven small shops close by. What do you hope those seven shops will include?

I got lots of wish-lists from friends and responded by number-crunching what kind of shops were the most wished for in these imaginary streets. These were my results...

I decided to try and convert all your comments into some kind of survey results. That took some judgement calls because some shops are very similar while others combine well into one mixed business. Also, nomenclature takes some translating. Still this is what I got...

1. In equal first place are cafes and bakeries (which nobody calls 'hot bread kitchens' anymore). Sometimes these were combined as bakery-cafes.

2. In second place were mini-marts (often named as IGAs). They were more popular than milk bars (possibly due to larger range or the additional services they tend to have like an ATM).

3. In third place were pharmacies.

4. In equal fourth place came fruit-and-vegetable stores, fish-and-chips (winner in the takeaway joint stakes), and milk bars (surprisingly popular given that they are smaller than a mini-mart but I think that might be in part a sentimental vote).

5. In equal fifth place were newsagents (who it was noted can be agents for services like Australia Post), book shops (or something that can exchange books), and noodles (that only just pipped pizza to the post in the takeaway joint stakes).

6. In equal sixth place were butchers and pizza.

7. In equal seventh place came Australia Post and op-shops (with some noting that an op-shop has all sorts of things and is like a small second-hand department store).

8. In equal eighth place came laudromats (including dry-cleaning), massages (more popular among us than hair cuts), curry, and arts-and-crafts.

9. In ninth place came delis. Some however noted that mini-marts or milk bars often include a deli selection. One of you wanted a cheese shop specifically.

10. In equal tenth place came clothes alterations fabric stores and pet-related services.

All other things were each named by three or fewer of you. These included hairdressers, plant nurseries and florists, machine supply and maintenance, toys and games, bars, gift shops, music stores and dance studios.

Following that I presented my own imaginary seven stores...

Some of you turned your lists into descriptions of the character of your shops so I am taking some inspiration from you in this, my imagined seven backstreet shops.

To begin with, I'll describe the fixtures outside the row of shops. Naturally, there's some parking space, but also bike racks, bins (including recycling), a post box, a payphone, some benches, and some hardy garden beds. An unknown local regularly places garden ornaments in among the shrubbery. The shops that need it have been allocated space on the footpath for alfresco dining. A street sign declaring the name of these shops does not include the phrase 'shopping centre' as that's an exaggeration, and instead just says 'The Shop Street Shops'. So, onto the shops, from one end to the other:

The Mortar & Pestle Compounding Pharmacy is also a licensed agent for Australia Post and the Commonwealth Bank and includes an external ATM.

Topknot To Toes is a combination masseur and barber (which does only basic cuts but charges women and men the same rate). One of their options is a combination hair cut and head-and-shoulder massage.

The Shop Street Laundromat includes vending machines, comfy couches, a book exchange cabinet, a chess set and a community notice board. A few of the locals regularly come here to clean their clothes and play chess. Nobody has ever seen the person who runs it.

The Shop Street Fish-And-Chippery is currently run by Kurdish Australians. Just as the former Greek Australian owners expanded the menu, so too are the current owners. There's an old Asteroids arcade game table in a corner, but on closer inspection one discovers that it's been turned into a terrarium.

There is an op-shop run by a philanthropic organization called the Worldwide Order of Oddballs (WOOB). The coordinator is a collector of pop-culture memorabilia and a costumer. Anything excess to her own current desires becomes part of the stock.

The Honey Pot Bakery-Café is renowned locally for its chilli scrambled, its fresh juices and its kibbled rye. Both the hot and cold coffees are good too.

The Shop Street Superette is a mini-mart run by Kiwis who think these shops are called 'superettes'. It includes a deli cabinet and a small selection of tacky gifts that nobody seems to buy. They make a better malted milkshake than the cafe does.

There is something timeless (within post-war era confines) in this description. Some of it resonates with recent trends but in other ways they are the kind of shops that many generations of Australians would feel are familiar. I guess that familiarity is what makes my mundane posts popular.

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