“Opening a new shop in Sydney is as simple as ABC”, I thought to myself the other night, as I stopped to take a photograph of the new shop they’re preparing to open on the corner of Cleveland and Crown/Baptist streets. That particular space has been empty for at least two or three years now, ever since the Blockbuster video store “downsized” and moved further into Crown Street. In the time since, there have been at least two attempts to fill the space, as Development Applications have appeared in the shop window, only to disappear a few months later.
I think it’s a good thing they’re going to fill the space. Empty shops aren’t a “good thing” for the neighbourhood. Shops help bring the neighbourhood to life. They bring people into the area. People who you get to know by face even if you never go into their shops. And in Surry Hills, we have quite a few shops in the neighbourhood I’ve never been into. The dog spa, for example, the place where you take your dog to be groomed. What is that about? Due to our proximity to the city and the complex blending of rich and poor, straight and gay, and culturally diverse communities we don’t have a lot of “normal” shops in Surry Hills. In my part of Surry Hills that means lots of restaurants, cafes and the like.
And now, of course, we have a new shop filling the empty space. And guess what? It’s an ABC shop. No I don’t mean something from the retail arm of my employer. For me, ABC shops is short-hand for “another bloody chemist”. Larger discount pharmacies are everywhere these days. You want to fill a large empty space with regular income in Sydney, these days? Open a discount chemist.
It’s not as if we’re short of chemist shops in my neighbourhood. Within two or three minutes walk from my home, we already have three. I hope they don’t suffer as the much larger discount chemist has moved in.
Meanwhile, the legendary “Dhaba” on the corner of Cleveland and Nickson streets has recently closed which is sad. From the earliest days of me moving to Sydney and moving into the area, “The Dhaba” (as most people called it simply) has been one of my favourites. It used to be the “default” restaurant for a spotaneous evening meal. The food was always delicious, and the restaurant was always packed. But in recent years, the food hasn’t been as good, and you would often pass the restaurant and it was either empty or close to empty. I guess part of their decline relates to the significantly greater choice we have in the area now.
Also closing very soon is “Cafe Sicilia”, a terrific Italian restaurant which has occupied a space on Crown Street with its wonderful combination of delicious food and equally delicious waiters Still successful, they’re moving to another space which is good for them, though I do worry we’ll have another large empty space in my neighbourhood.
I guess we still have food trucks, though. With a modern take on the older style “pie truck”, they’ve appeared all over central parts of Sydney in the last year or so. I bought some yum cha from one on the way home tonight, and although I thought it was reasonably expensive for “takeaway food”, I also thought it was very delicious. The only downside was that on a cold wet winter night, I found myself queueing in the rain, and then having to deal with adding my own sauces. The result? Vinegar and soy all over my jacket.