JOHN: What do you think, darling?
ETHEL: I think I’d like to know a bit about the history of the place before we commit to anything. It looks quite old…
REAL ESTATE AGENT: That’s because it is, Mrs. Kelly. As you can see, it’s currently a lending library and a dry cleaner, but our records go back to 1895. At that time, this was the residence of a Mr. S. Spittle, furniture salesman. Spittle was a man known for his generosity, and he was likely here at home in bed on the night back in June of that year when he graciously allowed Mr. and Mrs. McKinelly use of Enterprise Hall, above his furniture warehouse, for a party.
Look, here’s the clipping from what must have been a very slow news day:
REAL ESTATE AGENT: Just three years later, Mr. Spittle had moved to another part of Newtown, making way for a Mr. J. Preston and his family. Under Preston, this shop became a newsagent…
REAL ESTATE AGENT: …which likely sold the very paper that, in 1901, contained the details of his granddaughter Rose Anna’s funeral train, which was headed straight for the Necropolis. Very sad. It’s believed she died in this house.
The records become a little hazy for a time after that.
By the 1920s, though, they’d gone from selling newsprint to, well, printing in their own style. If you wanted to have your photo taken in your best power outfit and then have your imperfections aerographed out, Dallimore’s was the place to go:
REAL ESTATE AGENT: Somehow, I don’t think rough-and-tumble Newtown was quite accepting of such an arty venture. Maybe one day…
Sure enough, the Kellys bought the shop, and only two years after that, Mrs. Kelly bought the farm…
…after which time John Kelly, formerly a milk bar proprietor, retired to Rockdale, and that’s where we lose the trail. It’s not until the mid 1980s that the chain of tenancy gets hot again, and what hotter place for it to do so than the Dew Drop Inn…
Hairdressers in Newtown are a dime a dozen, especially with slick, one-word names like Glitterbox. But if we look upwards, we see that this was once a very un-slick, many-worded Asian restaurant: the Dew Drop Inn.
It’s a name that’s usually reserved for seedy joints in 30s gangster movies. In fact the last place I’d ever expect to be associated with that name would be an Asian restaurant, especially – as the sign boasts – a gourmet one.
Unfortunately for this article’s integrity, the Dew Drop Inn seems to have dew dropped off the face of the planet, with nary a mention on the internet. All we can go on are the facts: one: it’s pre-1994 because it’s a seven digit phone number and two: it’s an Asian restaurant in Newtown without either an Asian name or a terrible pun.
And yet, for all this emptiness and lack of information, I’m intrigued. I need to know more. Did yew ever drop inn? Fess up in the comments.
Let’s dig deeper. According to this fascinating snapshot of an article from 1994, our location then became the State of Grace cafe.
Sheena Dunn, just back from New Orleans to open the State of Grace cafe, believes in the funky eclectism of the southern end. “It’s a strong neighbourhood, especially of artists and musicians,” she says. “This part of town really feels like what’s happening.” The cafe, open just one week, serves a silky Thai pumpkin soup, Spanish tortilla and home-made lemonade and coffee to the sound of S. E. Rogie and Miles Davis.
Gee, it’s truly a shame that we’ll never again be able to enjoy the eclectic funk of a Newtown cafe that serves tortillas and plays jazz music. Of note is that the article mentions the State of Grace had only been open a week; the article later provides the cafe’s phone number, which is without a 9. From this, we could assume that the shop’s preceding tenant was…the Dew Drop Inn.
But there’s one thing that’s bothering me. Given the suburb’s penchant for all things vintage and retro, could it be possible that someone just bought that sign and mounted it there as an artistic statement? Are we being tricked? Only in Newtown…
There exists in the collective unconscious a perception that in the 1950s and 60s, all men were DIY-handymen, and that Saturdays were a time to ‘do a bit of work around the house’. The proliferation of small town, independent hardware shops from that era seem to support this. Of course, this was long before the mega-chains rose to power, bought them all out, assimilated them into the brands and then closed them for not being as profitable as the superstores.
But because the Bunnings of the world are ruled by suits and not overalls, a sloppier job was done eradicating that old independent spirit. Ancient advertisements and signage, once lovingly applied by hand (on a Saturday) were left in place, seen by marketing gurus as a kind of ‘free advertising’. But they weren’t, man. They were a reminder.
Now we live in an age where the mega-chains that are buying out these strip shops aren’t even from the same industry. Since we can’t go five seconds without Gloria-Jonesing for an Oreo Bash Mocha Chiller, ‘little’ cafes like this one have supplanted more practical outlets in small shopping centres. What’s so little about Gloria Jean’s? And how is it that the Commonwealth Bank can’t support locations in Panania, Revesby and Padstow, yet Gloria Jean’s can pull it off without breaking a sweat?
But Gloria Jean’s, like so many mega-chains before them, didn’t do a good enough job in rebranding, and its Panania outlet retains its sun-kissed ‘Bell’s Hardware’ tattoo. We can be thankful that the next generation won’t have to endure a Gloria Jean’s one.
Or maybe it’s ‘Bill’s Hardware’. I can’t really tell. Bill Bell, if you’re reading this, get in touch. You know my name, look up the number.
With all the outrage and media attention directed toward the impending closure (or just closure, if you’re reading this in the future) of Panania’s Commonwealth Bank branch, anyone would think the community had never lost a bank before.
Just take a look directly across the road from the soon-to-be-blog-worthy Commonwealth: another ex-ANZ. You’ll note the distinctive striped shopfront design that has proven nearly impossible to remove in past instances, and the residue of the extra-strength glue they used to bolt their fitful branding above the awning. Hell, even the ugly tilework has remained (much to the detriment of current tenants Black Pepper). In fact, essentially the only thing that hasn’t stuck around are the customers. Are you listening, Commonwealth?
And if the A Current Affair story on the Panania Whichbank doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, don’t forget: every time a bank branch closes, a BSB number becomes an orphan. ;_;