Once upon a time, on the corner of Henson Street and Chetwynd Road, Merrylands, there existed a corner shop.All the locals would journey to the shop whenever they were out of the Big Three: bread, milk, cigarettes. For those who couldn’t make the trip, perhaps those too elderly to easily leave their houses, the shop provided free delivery.In the summertime, on their way to or from the local pool, or maybe just in the midst of riding around the streets on their BMX bikes, kids would stop in for ice cream, or drinks of the icy cold variety. In the 80s specifically, their choice would have been that of the new generation.None of that “Good on ya, Mum” nonsense here – strictly Buttercup Bread. Today, the name seems to have disappeared, but it lives on through the ‘Mighty Soft’ brand for those of you interested.Those shelves, once fully stocked to provide a community with the essentials, are now empty. If you imagine it as a metaphor for the emptiness of the concept of community in the modern age, you’ll probably wind up feeling pretty bummed out, so don’t do it.
This shop may be confined to Merrylands, but the underlying themes apply to just about every has-been corner shop in any suburb. They’re relics from another era, and one that can never be again.
In 1886, British migrant George Marchant purchased a Brisbane ginger beer manufacturing plant. By 1890, Marchants was the largest soft drink business in Australia, with a product range including hop beer, soft drinks and cordial, and with plants in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle and Sydney. Oh, and Bexley.
Let’s not beat around the bush – the building looks old. The Bexley depot of the Marchants soft drink empire may be a panel beater now, but it’s clear to see how it would have been back then. It looks like a horse and cart might explode from behind that door at any second in a frenzied rush to deliver kegs of creaming soda, just like in the olden days.
George Marchant was known for his strong belief in social equality, and women workers in his factories earned more than the average female wage in the food industry at the time. When the soft drink company’s registration was abandoned in 1917, the brand name was sold off and kicked around for decades between Pepsi, Shelleys, and ultimately Coca-Cola, which owns the brand today. Marchant himself died in 1941, by which time this site was long since out of the soft drink business. Hmm…I’m thirsty.
In the 1950s and 60s, a lot of Chinese restaurants offered Australian cuisine because racist old cobbers refused to eat ‘Oriental Chinko food’ and demanded options. Yep, nothing like getting take-away for a treat on Friday night and having the same steak and veggies you had all week, only instead of cooking it for you, your wife goes and gets it.
Unrelated, Indian Hut seems to have been okay to leave the Australian and Chinese bit of the shopfront bare, but painted over a Coca-Cola advert. Maybe they’re Pepsi people.