Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published November 8th 2013
Big on service, big on value, small on size
Doctor Who's Tardis has the remarkable feature of being bigger on the inside than the outside, much like my granny's handbag.
But very few shops seem to have that capacity, although Arlena's General Store in Guildford does. Which is odd, when you consider just how crowded it is with things to look at and things to buy.
Arlena's General Store (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The shop's owner, Arlena, cares about her customers and their comfort and has provided bowls of water for passing pets, a caring and thoughtful touch.
Inside, the shop is cool and airy with shelves arranged on either side to hold the vast range of goods, some very good, on either side of a long table for communal tea and coffee drinking for regulars and the convivial and a couple of small tables for those refreshing themselves more intimately.
Arlena herself is almost as entertaining as her shop. Born of a Swiss family, she studied in Australia, has been a model and actress, worked in pharmaceuticals, raised three children as a single mum, before taking up the lease that serendipitously fell vacant just when we decided she wanted to work closer to home.
As an actress Arlena took a part in Love by Prescription, a short comedy starring Todd Jenson.
Arlena's loves are nutrition, health and organic foods, which she has studied for years and for which she is an excellent advertisement.
But for me, it is her tea, coffee, hot chocolate and associated treats that attracted me.
The above-mentioned treats on offer include a range of fresh sandwiches on New Norcia Bread made while you wait - ham, salad, cheese, tomato, asparagus or any combination of them with organic relish, either plain or toasted ($8:00 to $8.50) as well as a range of home-made cakes and muffins that are just a little bit different.
Chocolate cake from Arlena's General Store (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
On the Tuesday I dropped in I tried Arlena's flourless chocolate cake made with Dutch and Belgian chocolate, German semolina, all of which makes it delicious and rich, but not overly sweet.
I usually drink Arlena's famous Chai Latte (which she makes with two kinds of Chai and a tiny pinch of nutmeg and, I think, ginger) but on this occasion I decided to try her coffee - a smart move as it happens.
She uses ethical coffee, that is to say coffee grown, processed and sold in a way that does not exploit the people making it. It is of a piece with Arlena's whole philosophy of life and fortunately it also means the coffee is really, really, good.
It also comes with a fern leaf pattern in the froth - very pretty.
Coffee from Arlena's General Store (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
While you're having your drink you can look over the huge range of health supplements, natural scented soaps, organic candles, gifts, novelties, imported sweets, gluten-free products, sugar-free products, novelties, Goji Berry products, teas, coffees and other delicious and delightful goodies.