For the seven years I have lived in Meadowbank (Auckland, 1072), my corner shops have been the staple of my shopping week.
There’s a couple I have never visited but really wanted to, namely a tanning clinic and hairdresser, and a computer repair shop.
A dairy, an iteration of Portofino, and my corner takeaway, are corner-shop perfection.
It was called Shangri-La takeaways and it still had the pre-prefixed phone number stenciled onto the hand-painted facsia.
It looked like nothing had changed for several years, even when I first arrived in 2008. It had a Nemo-style fish tank with drugged-looking bloated goldfish sitting in the general area of a current, and bashing into the glass. Someone had to clean that tank, I imagined, but they never got round to it, I imagined.
It was screaming for a maven to overhaul the place. Goldfish tank in a chippie?
I’d park in the diagonal parking outside, careful not to park astride two parks. If you’ve lived in Auckland, this is a habit of types with big black SUVs. Take up space.
I’d walk in and make my order: $6.00 chips; one steak-and-egg burger; two battered sausages; three potato cakes.
Everything was cooked in the deep fryer. Bare hands were used to transfer the frozen, pre-cooked chips and sausages to brown paper. The steak burger was cooked elsewhere in (I imagined) an electric frypan. The steak was schnitzel and burger pattie, but once you tasted this, you’d go back for ten thousand more.
Next to the Shangri-La, the dairy. It’s still there. A few years ago, they stopped selling wine and it was such a travesty of the small-retail demise. They also had the legal highs removed. The only thing that made this dairy ‘a point of difference’ was that they consistently sold flowers, because Purewa was just down the road. Anything you wanted was there, and magazines, (OK!) if you needed a break from death and fast food.
One day, it changed. I parked as usual, and saw MEN inside the Shangri-La. They had measuring sticks and the Chinese man who had served me for seven years was smiling and buoyant, presumably because he’d sold the place and was off on some adventure finally with his family. He looked so happy. Eyes up to the ceiling, shaking a frying chip basket and looking out the window to the bleak St John’s street, happy.
Now it’s a franchise. A nice franchise, for sure. But it’s not the same. There was nothing finer than the glutinous chow mein of the former owners. I used to watch him sprinkle the ‘seasonings’ into the wok but still be unable to stop myself eating his crunchy broccoli or carrot.
It’s a franchise, baby, a franchise store. THEY DECIDE which oil to use, for your own health. THEY are in control of my meals.
Can’t I decide?