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Published May 30th 2012
The Maling Road shopping centre in Canterbury has turned back time. It had become a popular outing because it preserves the graciousness of yesteryear.
It's all ribbons and curls, cream sponges and dainty teapots. Shops have names such as Cafe Eden, Wilson and Walsh Fine Food, and Glass Slipper, and their goods spill out onto the pavement in a potpourri of fragrances, handmade lace and charming antiquity.
The locals wander down to shop, leaving behind their cottage gardens. Most seem attached to one pooch or another. It's a middle-class haven aptly nicknamed Kennett Country after the areas most famous resident, Victoria's former Premier.
But then Canterbury has pretty much always been middle-class. The Maling Rd shops arose as a direct consequence of the opening of the railway in 1882, which whisked men off into the city and left women in charge of the home-front.
And the female domain was one of near self sufficiency. Needs such as fruit, vegetables, eggs, jam , prickles, cakes, clothing and soft furnishing were met at home.
But visits to the local shops were an important social outing. And few homes had fridges until after World War 11. Meat and milk was brought almost daily. A range of services grew to meet the needs of these daily shoppers.
Shopping was all about service and relied on face-to-face contact. But this world floundered when in the 1950s most middle-class families purchased cars. There was a growth in huge regional shopping centres such as Chadstone.
By 1972 Maling Rd was feeling the competition. There were vacant premise and shops became run down. There was a strong call for ripping down and redevelopment but that was stalled by a group of traders and residents who fought to preserve the Edwardian streetscape.
And so began the regeneration and recycling of Maling Rd. Off street parking was created and there was a removal of modern eyesores such as advertising signs and power poles.
Because many of the shops had verandahs and pressed-tin ceilings the result was an olde-world feel.