How much is that Unix in the window?
I think this may be my favourite shopfront so far, and possibly ever. I love that they’ve used the world’s strongest paint (?) to craft their advertisement to the world; no flashy banners here. I love the single-minded devotion to the RSS feed-esque concept – the way the words are cut off and begin again haphazardly (unless they sold interns and nets as well, to be fair). I love the idea of the owner being struck by a vision of how his shop should present itself to the outside world, and either making it happen himself, or asking (forcing) someone else to do it. Someone crafted this by hand. You’ve gotta respect that vision. Then again, when this place was in its prime, all you needed was the word INTERNET to get people in your door. And speaking of…
Once upon a time, this tiny shop on Stoney Creek Road was on the bleeding edge of the information superhighway ultra-revolution. Alternately Computer Consulting Services and Systems Contractors, they sold internet by the pound here.
But it wasn’t just internet that these guys were hawking. Unix, a programmer-focused operating system designed to be easily ported to a variety of systems. It may sound like a foreign language to most these days, but it’s actually more common than you think. Apple’s OS X, found on any Mac or iPod or iPhone, is Unixian in nature.
Back before easy wifi connections and computers that did it all for us, if you were a small business or home office, you’d call places like this to set up your network so that your Joyce on the front desk could email Mr. Burroughs in his office right out back without having to get up. Barry from accounts could shoot through the latest BAS statements to the auditors at their temporary setup in the board room without anyone having to leave their seats. Suddenly, everyone was about to get fatter.
While Unix systems are still heavily used today, the name isn’t as prominent. Now it’s more a case of certain operating systems being certified as adhering to the Unix specification, such as OS X or Linux.
So this time, it’s not thanks to some ancient advert or antiquated phone number that we can place a date on this shop – it’s that they weren’t pushing Linux.
The “No More Junk” sticker on the front door is particularly apt: there’s barely any room for more. It’s safe to say that whoever resides here now isn’t interested in operating systems or multitasking beyond 4WD touring while listening to Shihad.
But as always, we must look to the past, and what the past reveals for us this time is simultaneously surprising and terrifying.
They sold open fires here. No wonder the building next door is gone.
They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Once upon a time, just after the Second World War, Herne Bay was a suburb notorious for violence and poverty. During the war the United States Army had established a hospital barracks in the area (which is why many local street names have a distinctly American flavour), but once the war was over the hospital buildings were converted to public housing by our old friends the Housing Commission.
Within a decade of the advent of commissioned housing, Herne Bay had become a no-go zone. Overcrowding begat poverty, poverty begat crime, and crime begat Riverwood. In 1957, in an effort to repair the suburb’s reputation, Herne Bay was newly christened Riverwood. That’ll do the trick. Don’t think to try and combat any of the aforementioned problems or anything, just change the suburb’s name. Maybe all those no-goodniks will think to themselves “But I live in Herne Bay, not Riverwood!” and move away!
But the rebranding effort didn’t stop there. Private development sprang up, and the small shopping village made a concerted effort to present a friendlier face and reforge the suburb into a place you’d want to live.
One of these was likely the Riverwood Pantry. 1960s by name, 1960s by nature, the Pantry would have provided cakes and treats to both the working class Riverwegians and the undesirable leftover Herne Bayers. The woman behind the counter would have called everyone ‘love’ and ‘pet’ even though she knew all their names. They would have had the same cake in the window for so long that it became fused to the paper doily it was sitting on.
As we move today towards all-in-one shopping experiences and self-service supermarkets, there’s no room for this kind of shop anymore. No one cares what your name is, and cakes no longer need doilies. At some point, having failed its mission, the Pantry went the way of all things, leaving behind a Riverwood with a reputation for crime, poverty and general unpleasantness. Maybe it’s time for another name change.
You know how it can be.
You work hard all your life, bringing your strong, old-world work ethic to whatever task you’re assigned. Sometimes you sell produce, sometimes you sell furniture. It doesn’t matter to you, you were built for this. You can sell anything, it’s your purpose. It makes you feel good. You shack up, maybe you get an idea that you’re going to settle. ‘This could work,’ you think to yourself. ‘I could see myself here in five years, just cruising.’
You hit that point where you’re salivating at the thought of retirement, a handsome payoff for all the hard work you’ve ever done. Sure enough, the day comes. There’s a small celebration, a cake. Gary from next door has a bit too much champagne and ruins your carpet. You laugh and shrug; you’ll have nothing but time to clean it up.
But then the unthinkable happens. Something so commonplace you kick yourself for not having seen it coming, but you never thought it would happen to you. One of your dependents passes away.
Suddenly, things aren’t looking so simple. Easy Street has taken a sharp left onto Struggle Street…which is now a five lane highway. You’ve got to go back to work if you want to make ends meet.
The first day back on the job, and everything has changed. New owners, new workers. New work ethic. As the new upstarts proceed to do all the things you never could, the taste of that cake comes back to you, suddenly very bitter. The owner can see the way things are going, and decides to get out. Just like that. Here one day, gone the next, and not even a goodbye. You know in the back of your mind it’s all your fault. How did that make you feel?
Another decade, another set of owners. The rent won’t pay itself, after all. These hip new owners watch you work, barely masking the disappointment. They paid how much for this? You’re from another time; you just can’t cut it. So out comes the new coat of paint, the new accoutrements designed to help a dinosaur compete in a modern world. It works…for awhile.
And then the 80s. You cut a break – suddenly it doesn’t matter who you are, only what you’re selling. And you’ve lucked out, my friend. Fully stocked with the latest in washers, colour TVs and video recorders. Inwardly, you can’t even begin to understand how it all works. You’re of a bricks-and-mortar mindset, these newfangled electronics baffle you. But you were built to sell, and sell you do. The money – you’ve never seen so much money! – comes thick and fast, and suddenly you find yourself with a hefty bonus here and there. It goes to your head. You’ve forgotten that no one is bigger than the business.
Which brings us to today. Colour TVs lost their novelty. VHS is barely a memory in the mind of the public. ‘People still have to wash,’ you argue. True. But there are laundromats for that. Massive department stores just up the road. While you were sitting here, the world changed, and if you ever left your comfort zone, you’d know that.
These days, you’re a sight. You cling embarrassingly to your heyday, desperate to remind prospective owners what you can do.
But no one’s buying what you’re selling. You were never the best salesperson, merely capable. Today, even that’s negligible. All you do is remind people of a past they’re happy to forget. Despite your best efforts, you’ve landed yourself a beauty salon gig, the kind that’s all too common in these strips. Well done. The saddest part is, you think it’s going to last forever.
I pity you.
The legendary Cane Bazaar at Beverly Hills. For years it’s seemed like the suburb was built around this behemoth – it’s a staple. But now there are rumblings, and it appears like the Bazaar is about to enter the next phase of its existence, about to take its first steps without a cane.
The recent alterations to the shopfront have exposed what appear to be two distinct structures beneath the Cane Bazaar facade (facaad?). Perhaps long before even its supermarket days, this was indeed two separate shops along King Georges Road. Reader Vivien has pointed out that this was in fact the site of Woolworths’ first self-service variety supermarket in 1955:
Look at that crowd! And you thought today’s self-service checkouts were mayhem. Later, it became a Jewel supermarket (remember those?) before the populace decided cane was in.
But back to this facade. Can I draw your attention for one moment to the boasts of lay-by and delivery services? First of all, it’s cane furniture, so it’s not exactly gonna break the bank. Second, it’s cane furniture, so it’s light as. They could have delivered their wares on bicycles. Also, I was unaware of this, but Bankcard has been discontinued since 2006. Pretty sure it outlived the Cane Bazaar, though.