Since opening in 2001, Redfern Convenience Store has become Sydney’s unlikeliest tourist destination. The inner-city institution has over 30,000 Instagram followers, a global fanbase, merch lines that sell out consistently with every drop, its own in-store radio (with self-produced ads that advertise its own products) and even its own theme song, which you can find on Spotify.
And now, the beloved corner shop that interchangeably describes itself as both the “greatest convenience store on Earth” and the “greatest Redfern convenience store on Earth” (both claims are arguably true), is opening a new location on Newtown’s King Street.
You can take the shop out of Redfern but you can’t take Redfern out of the shop – so don’t call it Newtown Convenience Store. Its official name will be Redfern Convenience Store. “Everyone’s going, ‘Why did you call it Redfern Convenience Store in Newtown?’” owner and face on the store logo Hazem Sedda tells Broadsheet. “Because that’s my brand. Everyone knows what Redfern Convenience Store stands for.”
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One of the most convenient things a good convenience store can do is open in another location, but expansion wasn’t on Sedda’s mind. “I never wanted to open a second store,” he says. “I just wanted to make Redfern Convenience Store iconic – one place only.” But, the King Street address has personal significance for Sedda, so when the opportunity to lease came up in April, he couldn’t pass it up.
The site, which counts King Street staples such as Bella Brutta and the Marlborough Hotel as neighbours, was once another convenience shop. And when Sedda’s father, Ali Ata, arrived in Australia from Palestine in 2000, he worked there before being inspired to open his own place. “My dad was always impressed by how good that Newtown store was,” Sedda says. “When I moved to Australia in 2003 and started helping my dad in the convenience store [he] would tell me, ‘You can’t do it this way, this is not like the Newtown store. This is not the way.’ After 20 years, we own that store. It means a lot to me and Dad is so happy.”
If you’re a Redfern Convenience Store fan, you’ll find plenty to like about the Newtown digs. Despite the space being smaller, the new Redfern Convenience Store is designed to replicate the original: same products, same shelving and general layout, same signature black tiling. All the convenience store hallmarks will be present, as well as the shop’s peerless array of local, British, Middle Eastern and North and South American sweets and treats. (It remains the best place in Sydney to find a Toy Story-themed Pez dispenser and a tub of Twix-flavoured edible cookie dough after midnight.) To Sedda, the only significant difference between his King Street and Redfern Street stores is that “the names of the streets are completely different”.
Now that “the greatest convenience store on Earth” has another location, which one is the greatest now?
“Both of them are one place,” says Sedda. “But before we could only serve one customer, and now we can serve one in Redfern and one in Newtown. We can have two people smiling at the same time, so they’re both the greatest.”