Retailers as Community Hubs
As bricks and mortar retailers strive to maintain relevance, I’m today reminded of their importance as hubs of the community.
Years ago, I recall accompanying my mother to “the shops”. This was never a quick trip as it involved 3 or 4 outlets (the butcher, the fruit and veg shop, the bakery, the deli etc.) and the requisite pleasantries to be shared with the proprietor of each store. Then we “ran into” friends and acquaintances to share a hello and a bit of gossip. I’ve often wondered why we referred to it as “running into” people as there was never a collision involved but then I think there are a lot of funny terms from my childhood that I still don’t quite understand.
These trips were as social as they were practical. As large format stores made their presence, the neighbourhood shops disappeared one by one yet we’ve seen a resurgence in cafes, and I’m wondering if cafes are just about good coffee. I think not, and I suspect they have a meaningful role to play as community hubs, gathering spots and a place where we can belong.
When I moved to my current place 3 years ago, there was a small café opposite. We live close to a ferry wharf and the mornings at the café were really bustling; however 10 days after moving in (yes! 10 days I kid you not) the shop closed. No longer did we hear the sound of busy commuters grabbing their morning pick me up, stopping for a quick chat and wishing Proprietor Paul all the best for his day. I often wonder what became of Paul.
Fast forward to today, and bakaliko & co has taken on that same store with a new offering of coffee, upper-end convenience items and a small range of cakes and lunch options. Shameless promotion from me? Maybe – I have a vested interest in seeing this place survive as it services a small community with no other choices but I think its meaning goes deeper than pure commercialism. I hope to see it become the morning and early evening hub that was the mark of its predecessor and for it to take on the role of a connector in our community. I popped in today for a takeaway coffee, and three generations of a family from the apartments next to the café gave me a smile and a hello – our very first interaction in the 3 years I’ve lived opposite them. Let’s see.
One of the biggest challenges for them is going to be their branding though I expect they’ll become known as the café at the ferry rather than by name.
The branding is a little confusing and might take a while before everyone catches on to the Landa symbol that joins the baka to the iko – sometimes I think we can be too smart for our own good on the branding front and making recognition simple for customers is always a plus.