Su­per­heroes in the dairy

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ANNA LOREN

Su­per­hero Raju Pa­tel is de­ter­mined to use his pow­ers for good.

The 40-year-old has been run­ning his dairy, the Kingston Food Cen­tre in Otara, for more than 15 years.

But the Su­per­hero Su­perette is no or­di­nary shop.

In­side it’s a trea­sure trove of su­per­hero mer­chan­dise and col­lectibles.

Posters line the walls, fig­urines crowd in cab­i­nets and trin­kets jos­tle for space.

There are pen­cils, mugs, mag­nets, stick­ers and even salt and pep­per shak­ers shaped like comic book he­roes.

‘‘Open any cup­board in the shop and some­thing will pop out. We’ve even got stuff on the ceil­ing be­cause we’ve run out of wall space.’’

The store has al­ways been dot­ted with su­per­hero ‘‘bits and pieces’’ but Mr Pa­tel be­gan dec­o­rat­ing in earnest about a year ago.

Since then it’s be­come a talk­ing point and peo­ple come from far and wide to see the col­lec­tion, his wife Bhavy­ata says.

‘‘Ev­ery cus­tomer comes in and says: ‘Wow, it’s not like other dairies.’

‘‘When they have friends over from over­seas they bring them in. We even had the US Em­bassy come in once.’’

Mr Pa­tel’s su­per­hero ex­ploits aren’t lim­ited to dec­o­ra­tions.

He’s as­sem­bled his own Bat­man cos­tume and can of­ten be seen in char­ac­ter be­hind the shop counter. Bat­man is also a reg­u­lar fix­ture at events held by Wil­low­bank School where he is chair­man of the Par­ent Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion.

But it’s in his char­ity work that his true su­per­hero na­ture shines through. He started mak­ing per­son­alised clocks for sick kids at Star­ship hos­pi­tal ‘‘a while back’’ and it all blos­somed from there, he says.

Now he reg­u­larly vis­its Star­ship and Kidz First Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal to drop off home-made, comic book-themed gifts to young pa­tients. He’s even given some lucky kids a per­son­alised let­ter from Bat­man and their own mem­ber­ship card for the Jus­tice League.

Mid­dle­more Foun­da­tion spokesman David Ke­meys says it’s not ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion that has a hot­line to the Bat­phone.

‘‘We try not to abuse it be­cause we know Bat­man has plenty to be get­ting on with. But he still finds time for us and does all sorts of things to help out.

‘‘He’s our hero – our su­per­hero ac­tu­ally.’’

Mr Pa­tel has also worked with the MakeA-Wish Foun­da­tion, go­ing on out­ings with se­ri­ously ill Bat­man fans. Kids es­pe­cially love his Bat­mo­bile, kit­ted out with a work­ing BatSig­nal, Bat­man booster seats and the regis­tra­tion plate DARKNT.

The car was largely a DIY job – as was the Bat­man stroller Mr Pa­tel made for his niece and many of the trin­kets for sale in the dairy.

Sur­pris­ingly, Bat­man isn’t his favourite su­per­hero – that hon­our falls to The Phan­tom, who is also known as The Ghost Who Walks.

But ‘‘no-one knows who he is’’ so Mr Pa­tel donned the Bat­suit in­stead.

Colour­ful kitsch: Cab­i­nets in­side the store are filled with su­per­hero mem­o­ra­bilia.

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