OPINION | Newsagencies and milk bars are disappearing from our towns

Do you remember running up the street to buy some milk and the newspaper? You went, not surprisingly, to the milk bar for the milk and the newsagency for the newspaper. (The clue was in the name.) Every town and suburb had at least one of those two shops, even if it wasn't fancy enough to have a bakery, a butcher or a greengrocer.

But have you noticed? Traditional milk bars and even newsagencies are disappearing. Try to get a Chiko roll or some cardboard for your kid's school assignment, and you could find yourself in trouble. Because the milk bars have all become cafes or mini-marts, and the newsagents are selling up.

Milk bars met a unique demand for hot food, bags of mixed lollies and cold drinks, set alongside a few grocery essentials and whatever delicacies the milk bar owners came up with. Since a lot of milk bars used to be owned by migrants, for those of us who are white-bread, Anglo Saxons, the glass-hooded tray by the cash register was often the source of our first baklava or lemon polenta cake.

Now we go to the cafe (sometimes housed inside what was the old milk bar) for a flat white and that polenta cake, the service station has the ice creams and a few over-priced groceries, and the Chiko roll is nowhere to be seen.

As to newsagents, I hate to say it, but their days may be numbered.

With the switch to digital news, and the co-opting of stationery sales by giant office supply and department stores, it won't be long before their raison d'etre is simply Lotto tickets.

I lived in Dubai for a few years and remember being surprised that such a thing as newsagencies didn't exist there. Then I realised that I was seeing the future.

In a new city with no historical homes for such things, why would someone open a store that was focussed on a product (newspapers and magazines, ostensibly) that wouldn't exist for much longer?

And now the future has come to Australia. What a shame these two neighbourhood stalwarts might not have a place in it.

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