Algerian Coffee Stores has been in our family since 1946 and still remains a true family business. Daniela and I have been working alongside Dad for many years and helping him run the shop, and today it is mainly us at the helm while we try (!) and get Paul to put his feet up a little.
This month it is our chance for a little trip down memory lane. We hope you enjoy it…
We really have been here all our lives and it is more than a workplace, more like our second home. We used to come to work with Dad some Saturdays and during school holidays to “help” him, get some work experience and earn a little pocket money..... and get treats!
The photo below is a treasured one, the only one we have of Dad, Daniela and me together at work all those years ago.
I remember one of our best treats was a croissant for breakfast from Patisserie Valerie, back when it was the original, and only, Patisserie Valerie. The croissant was always so big, and fresh, I used to love peeling away the layers and taking my time eating it.
We were always given the jobs of highest importance – or so Dad always led us to believe. One of my jobs was to draw all the lines in the banking book and date all the pages. This was a very important job because “without those lines we can’t do the banking and therefore the business can’t run”- the things children believe, I was so proud to be given such responsibility! Though I also remember the look on Dad’s face when he realized I’d skipped a page and all the dates were out of sync!
Without showing our age, this was in the days before computers, so ledgers and invoices were hand written and copies taken via sheets of carbon paper placed between the pages. We had very large sheets of carbon paper that needed cutting to size, and yes, that job was for us too. In the office I used to love to play on the typewriter and was given some typing jobs…. until all the spelling mistakes just made it more hassle than it was worth!
We also had to polish all the brass weights for the coffee scales, a very important job also as we were “in charge of keeping the shop presentable and making a good impression” and why the smell of Brasso evokes childhood memories. We still have those weights now; the photo below shows some of them. The large ones at the back are 4lb, 2lb, 1lb and 8oz.
I did also get to serve, and I had to have a box to stand on to reach the grinder and till. I loved the till – It was the very old style where you had to punch in the pounds button, then the 10, 20, 30, etc pence buttons and then the 1, 2, 3 etc pence buttons then hit the main ring to ring up the sale and the numbers popped up. Customers were always very kind and patient with me, or so I thought...
The teas were always packed in paper bags and folded in a very particular way and for years I struggled to get it right. Watching, learning, and practicing with the other staff helping me - those bags were my nemesis! And just when I learned how to get my packets presentable…. Dad changed the way we close the packets! Every so often I close the bags in the old style just to prove I can still do it!
The 5lb coffee bags used to be plain brown paper, Daniela had the task of stamping them with the “Algerian Coffee Stores” rubber stamp. She was also in charge of filling the elastic band box and sharpening pencils! ..now that is a responsibility!
And of course, we had to keep up the sweeping of the shop!
Here I am on coffee duty...or just posing ?!
Sometimes we helped weigh out the confectionery. I remember we used to weigh the chocolate covered coffee beans, and we also used to weigh and sell Belgian chocolate seashells…I hold my hands up, a few always got stashed away…in my mouth! We also used to sell our Chocolate Covered Figs individually, and while there was no one looking I used to grab one of them too and run off. It was quality control - That’s my excuse. After all these years we have come clean and told Dad so we can print this without fear of getting told off.
Two doors up from us there is a newsagent, many years ago the shop was run by a wonderful man called Peter. Daniela and I were often sent to go and buy Dad his paper, or stamps, or pens and Peter would always give us a pack of sweets - I remember sometimes Opal Fruits or Fruit Pastilles. He knew the way to our hearts! So obviously we were eager to check if anything was needed and would happily volunteer to go to Peter and buy it.
One of Daniela’s fabulous memories is of a lady called Mary - A local homeless lady whom Daniela recalls as very petite, with long black hair, perhaps in her late 50’s and Mary never spoke. She used to come for coffee on a Saturday and sit on the stalls that we used to have in the shop, just quietly drinking her cup of coffee and Dad used to make Daniela read the paper to her. Daniela used to notice something a little strange about Mary, her clothes were familiar…. turns out they were, she was wearing my pyjamas! As I grew out of them Dad used to bring them for Mary.
And like all great family businesses the next generation are getting their taste of Algerian Coffee Stores, throughout the years Daniela’s children have come down to help us out…and following in Dad’s footsteps we gave them the “very important” jobs. The photo above are Daniela's children helping out quite a few years ago, they were on price gun duty! As the years pass and they grow we can draft them in to help us during school holidays and Annalisa is here most Saturday’s helping us. Here is a photo during the Christmas chaos, three generations all mucking in and getting the job done.
This was Phoebe's first trip to the shop, reading up on the pricelist. I had planned to have her here working immediately but the pandemic put a hold to that.
Phoebe is still little and causes havoc…like a perfect little toddler. Though she does help me when I work from home…she scribbles in my diary, all over my lists and presses buttons on my computer that shouldn’t be pressed! Here she is below on a recent visit to the shop, with her Auntie, counting coffee beans - It is where it all begins!
Algerian Coffee Stores has always been in our lives and will remain in our hearts forever. It is not easy, and we certainly have our stresses but the kind words we often receive from our customers truly make it all worthwhile and they have never meant more than over the last couple of years. And often, when we read the kind messages, they bring a tear to our eyes.
I hope you have enjoyed our little trip down memory lane, we have so many fabulous memories we could be here forever! We will gather more for another blog perhaps... along with some more photos, I am sure I have some rather embarrassing ones stored in my loft.
Thank you for reading.