Growing up as a youngster, the corner dairy was a staple Kiwi classic. Before the growth of massive supermarkets, and petrol stations that stock all but the kitchen sink, the old corner dairy was the place to go for some supplies or milk (assuming you didn’t have the milk man deliver it to your door in glass bottles…why did the glass bottles ever stop!?).
Gradually over the years I have seen a massive reduction in these little stores. Culturally, at least in the big city of Auckland, its always been interested to look at ownership of these small businesses. When very young, they were generally western owned around my local area. As I passed through school, your typical Indian businessman/woman/family seemed to have brought up a good number of them. Now its often more the Chinese families. Living accommodation directly behind the counter, its always interested me in the fact that these businesses are simply a way of life. Open 7 days a week, long hours, often family owned and run…never a day off! – I admire their brute dedication.
Back when I was little New Zealand still had 1 and 2 cent coins (10 cents is now the smallest). Before the concern of germs (well, not really before), dairy’s would have glass displays of 1 and 2 cent lollies. 20 cents in hand,kids would choose those 10 or 20 candy treats, the dairy owner picking them out with their fingers that had touched who knows what else all day long. Ice blocks and ice cream in summer. Milkshakes, chips and fizzy drinks like leed…oh the memories.
Whilst many corner stores are still open all over the country, it must be a hard life. Many buy their products from supermarkets and hence have to charge high prices in store. Competing with large supermarket chains, also in every suburb, must be tough. Still the best place to go for an ice cream in summer though!
I am a curator at the Waikato Museum in Hamilton. We’re planning an exhibition that looks at corner dairies as New Zealand icons. I loved your photo of the Bayswater Superette. Would we possibly be able to use this in the show? Look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks Dan, I’ll be in touch.