Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

‘‘Hi Mr Bhikoo! Are you get­ting more fa­mous?’’ calls a passerby as he poses for his photo out­side his Do­min­ion Rd shop.

It seems ev­ery­one around here knows Mr Bhikoo. He is the kindly gen­tle­man who will give beg­gars a buck or cus­tomers his own sup­plies if the shop has tem­po­rar­ily run out of some­thing.

For 34 years the Hol­ly­wood Dairy has been Mr Bhikoo’s home and work­place.

He used to drive taxis and buses but much prefers be­ing self-em­ployed.

‘‘You’re your own boss. It has some dis­ad­van­tages – when you want to go for a hol­i­day you can’t just close up and go – but it has more ad­van­tages. I’m re­ally happy.’’

Born in Gu­jarat, In­dia, Mr Bhikoo mi­grated to New Zea- 2008 – Shashikant Prema, 51, was stabbed in the neck and back in his Avon­dale dairy. 2007 – Buck­lands Beach dairy owner Su­san Kishor, 33, was punched in the face and robbed. 2005 – Bh­agub­hai Vaghela, 58, was shot and killed in the Up­town Min­i­mart on New North Rd. 1993 – Navin Govind was beaten to death in his Kel­ston dairy by three youths wield­ing soft­ball bats. land with his par­ents at the age of 7.

But his family have been here since 1908. Mr Bhikoo was born af­ter his fa­ther re­turned to In­dia for a hol­i­day in the 1940s and was stranded there when war broke out.

His fa­ther also owned gro­cery stores in Waikato and Auck­land.

As a child Mr Bhikoo helped in his dad’s shop and his own chil­dren did the same.

‘‘My kids learned skills, about how to han­dle peo­ple.

‘‘They can com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter be­cause you’re deal­ing with all dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple.’’

The 65-year-old ad­mits to a cou­ple of scary mo­ments at work. One guy ran off with the till and an­other came in with a slug gun de­mand­ing money.

‘‘Young­sters,’’ he shrugs. ‘‘I think if you’re nice with all the street kids and hard­core peo­ple they won’t hurt you.

‘‘If they want to use the phone or they’re short of a dol­lar to get home I give it to them . . . they pay me back.’’

The big­gest is­sue the busi­ness faces is change, he says.

‘‘You have to change with the times.

‘‘If I sold the same stuff I sold 34 years ago my busi­ness wouldn’t be here to­day, be­cause the pop­u­la­tion has changed, peo­ple’s eat­ing habits have changed and su­per­mar­kets are open­ing longer. It’s been 34 years of good mem­o­ries.

‘‘All my chil­dren grew up here and I see teenagers and peo­ple of 30 or 40 that grew up here. I can re­mem­ber them from day one, when their moth­ers used to bring them in their pushchairs.’’ Se­jal Pa­tel is im­pressed with New Zealand. Im­pressed by the city and the en­vi­ron­ment, but most of all by the equal­ity and tol­er­ance we show to each other.

The 27-year-old busi­ness owner mi­grated here four years ago and sees beg­gars out­side her shop ev­ery day.

‘‘But when they come in my shop they’re re­ally hon­est,’’ she says.

‘‘Other cus­tomers see them the same way, as equals.

‘‘If it’s in In­dia they feel sad be­cause they are seen in a dif­fer­ent way [be­cause of the caste sys­tem] and we shouldn’t be­cause they’re also hu­man.’’

Ms Pa­tel mi­grated from Anand, In­dia, four years ago af­ter she com­pleted her bach­e­lor of arts in Hindi.

She runs the busi­ness with her brother.

‘‘In In­dia I just fin­ished study and came over here.

‘‘I was re­ally in­ter­ested in busi­ness so I just thought I’d start with the small busi­ness.

‘‘It’s good to do busi­ness over here be­cause the sys­tems are good. I like the peo­ple, they’re so friendly. The cul­ture is dif­fer­ent to In­dia.

‘‘In New Zealand it’s more open-minded and women have more free­dom.’’

She is not con­cerned about safety, though ad­mits it can be wor­ry­ing stock­ing cig­a­rettes, es­pe­cially when the re­tail price keeps climb­ing.

And she can­not un­der­stand why young peo­ple take up smok­ing.

‘‘I don’t like the teens who smoke,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s not the teens’ fault . . . they don’t have the right per­son to ad­vise them. I feel so sad for them.’’

De­spite work­ing long hours and the re­spon­si­bil­ity of run­ning a busi­ness, she man­ages to take a hol­i­day ev­ery year within New Zealand or to Aus­tralia.

At Christ­mas she is al­ways sur­prised by gen­er­ous cus­tomers who give her cards and scratchies bought from her shop.

‘‘If they win Lotto, they give a small amount, they’ll give us $1 or $2 and I feel like ‘oh my god, peo­ple are so kind’.’’

Kind man: Mo­ham­mad Bhikoo, of the Hol­ly­wood Dairy in Bal­moral.

Busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence: Se­jal Pa­tel, from Joy Dairy, Three Kings.

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