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Business is hard work but worth it say dairy owners

JENNY LING
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014
Bruce Campbell
KIND MAN: Mohammad Bhikoo, of the Hollywood Dairy in Balmoral.

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After the attack on Mt Roskill dairy owner Rajeev Kumar, deputy editor Jenny Ling asked dairy owners whether owning a small grocery store is still a good way to make a living in Auckland. She found them full of colourful stories that show a special kind of community spirit.

"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 Zealand 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."

DANGEROUS BUSINESS?

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- Shashikant Prema, 51, was stabbed in the neck and back in his Avondale dairy.

- Bucklands Beach dairy owner Susan Kishor, 33, was punched in the face and robbed.

- Bhagubhai Vaghela, 58, was shot and killed in the Uptown Minimart on New North Rd.

- Navin Govind was beaten to death in his Kelston dairy by three youths wielding softball bats.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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