‘‘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.