Marrickville shopkeepers must be the most devoted of all their kind. Albert Mardini, proprietor of a Lebanese delicatessen on Illawarra Road, gets up at four in the morning to drive out to Granville where he sources the best quality flat bread in Sydney. Then he puts in a 15 hour day. "I enjoy every second of my day, I enjoy every second of my life too!" he tells me. Mardini's shop has recently been renovated by his nephew Elvis, an award-winning builder. At the time of writing, 29 year old Elvis and his family were trying to return to Australia from a trip to Lebanon, where they'd been caught up in the Israeli attacks. His uncle seems to be taking it in his stride: "He rang and said to me 'Uncle Albert, what a beautiful country.' Then the trouble started." Elvis and his family had to travel by taxi through Syria and are now in Jordan trying to get on a flight home. Fingers crossed for a safe trip back to Marrickville for them.
The renovation is bright, with a huge new picture window enhancing the shop's high white pressed metal ceiling. Mardini's stock is small and select, and very good quality. Glorious ox heart tomatoes (from a friend's farm), perfect oranges and zucchini, almonds, henna products, pickled turnips, charcoal for smoking pipes, halva, loofahs, and exotic tinned goods like quinces and carob. He's planning a big new dairy showcase. The shop used to be called "The Nut Shop" but that name seems out of date now. Mardini is thinking of just calling it "Albert's" but is waiting for Elvis to get back before deciding. Albert has already run this shop for 26 years - I wish him at least another two and a half decades in which to enjoy his lovely renovation.
391 Illawarra Rd