I first noticed the Perkal Brothers store on the corner of Crown and Albion Streets when I was a teenager in the 90s and used to spend whole days walking around Darlinghurst and Paddington (we'd start at the beginning of Oxford Street near Hyde Park and walk the whole length to Woollhara, stopping at pretty much every shop on the way, and with detours down Crown and William Streets and anywhere else that looked interesting). It always had sign writing over the outside of the building, and looked intriguing.
The first time I went into the shop was when A was small, probably in 2008, and I was in search of somewhere that would do a leather sole shoe repair. It was like a fairytale workshop, with a strong smell of leather, skins and tools hanging up everywhere, boxes piled to the ceiling and TV soccer on very loud. The Perkals themselves were so very old but friendly and twinkly, and spent ages clucking at the baby. I learned later on that they had been working together here for over 60 years, and that they had escaped the Holocaust in Poland separately as young men before being reunited in Sydney - this article from the SMH is a good read.
I remember asking, "Do I need a ticket?" as I left, and they made dismissive noises. Another customer, who was on her way in as I walked out said, "Don't worry, they remember everyone". And it was true, they did. Since then we've visited a couple of times each year and every time I was reminded of what a special place it was. In a city that's full of shiny shopping centres and identical chain stores it was something completely different.
I heard this week that Adam and Morris Perkal had both died last month, aged 92 and 94, just twelve days apart. I'm sad for their families, and also selfishly sad that we won't be able to visit them in their stop anymore, and that one of my personal landmarks in the city will disappear. Mr Minit just won't compare.
"Two of Us" interview with Adam and Morris Perkal from the SMH in 2012 here.
Radio Interview on Friday Late here.
Obituary in the Telegraph, 31 December 2013 here.