It looks like any other drab line of shops on a dreary corner in Dullsville.
So what’s the reason for our focus on this windswept Belmore street corner on such an unseasonably brisk evening?
I thought you’d never ask.
The Corner Grill Cafe has failed. The grill is dormant, the shakes are neither shaken nor stirred, and the chips remain a mere gleam in a spud’s eye. Don’t believe the signs; they’re open zero days, and there’s no home to deliver.
This location has long served up junk food to the masses – just look at the ghost sign on the building’s south:
And in that earlier time, the corner shop backed onto some kind of mechanic. It’s now an IT consultant, but the evidence is there:
Despite that, it’s nothing special. Just another small business caught in the thresher of the conglomerates that absorb everything we rely on. The blood has dried, and the scene of the crime is now available on a twelve month lease.
What caught my eye, however, was this.
This is what elevates the Corner Grill Cafe – and indeed, the whole block of shops – to being worthy of a handful of words on the internet. Someone cared.
Whoever it was that founded the Corner Grill, that did their research, signed the lease, had the signs made, ordered the milkshake powder and on whose orders thousands of coffee beans were ground to death, that person believed in their idea, as wholly unoriginal as it was, and they gave a gift to an audience they thought they knew.
They believed that this corner of Belmore needed the Corner Grill Cafe, and only in the way they could provide it. They believed that it would fly, that the air would benefit from the smell of juicy, flame-grilled burgers instead of cigarette smoke and desperate living.
They believed that the arcade games that used to make the adjacent corner shop (and countless others like it) sing still had a place, however abstract, on Yangoora Street. They believed that the community had a place for their dream, and they commissioned this artwork to prove it.
That they were wrong doesn’t matter. They left their mark, and these days, that’s enough.
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.