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Iconic Parry's Milkbar at Caringbah is likely to close permanently unless it receives substantial rent relief from Sydney Trains.
The milkbar, which has stood at the entrance to the station for 62 years, shut its doors because of coronavirus in April and has not yet reopened.
Other shops on Sydney Trains property above the station on both sides of Kingsway have also been badly hit by the pandemic, which has resulted in a big reduction in the number of rail travellers.
One shop has closed permanently, the station kiosk has not reopened and other businesses need significant rent assistance to survive.
Parry's owner Paul Willats declined to comment but another shopkeeper said the milkbar was believed to be paying $2000 a week in rent.
"You have to sell a lot of milkshakes, chocolates and coffee to make that sort of money, apart from all the other costs," the shopkeeper said.
"They were up to date with rent when the virus hit.
You have to sell a lot of milkshakes, chocolates and coffee to make that sort of money,
"It would cost them about $20,000 to reopen, because they would have to completely restock."
The pandemic is "the last straw" for businesses on the shopping strip, which was once the busiest in the shire.
An earlier blow was delivered in 2018 when parking was removed from the eastern side of Kingsway between the station and President Avenue to provide another right turn lane and speed up through traffic.
Sydney Trains is the agent for rail properties landlord, a body called Transport Asset Holding Entity.
A spokeswoman said, "Sydney Trains is working closely with the NSW Government to provide rental relief for our tenants impacted by COVID-19".
"We have contacted all potentially eligible businesses and tenants, including those at Caringbah Station, to offer them assistance in applying for rental relief.
"We are currently processing rental relief applications for all our tenants at Caringbah Station.
"Any rental relief will be back dated to April 1, 2020 for a period of up to six months."
The Parry's brand goes back to 1940 when Vretos Panaretos and his wife Theodora took over a shop near the train station at Kogarah and opened a milkbar.
Mr Panaretos used the name Jim Parry for business - hence the name Parry's - and more outlets followed.
The Caringbah store, which opened in 1958, is the last Parry's operating in Sydney.
Paul Willats bought the business in 2017 and gave the store a major refurbishment, enhancing the retro appearance.
Shopkeepers say property agents for Sydney Trains are unsympathetic to the plight of the business owners, there is a high turnover of staff and they are very slow to act on problems.
"We feel we are little fish in a very big pond, and they don't really care," one frustrated business owner said.
"The shop adjoining Parry's at the station entrance has been empty for several years, but they don't seem to be concerned.
"Wouldn't it be better to get some rent rather than ask what is unrealistic given what is happening all around here?"
A crystal and gift store, on rail property on the western side of Kingsway, is the latest store to close permanently.
The nearby Westpac Caringbah branch has temporarily closed due to coronavirus.
A jewellers store, Jester Fancy Dress and Gloria Jeans Coffees have been other casualties in the last year.
Another big loss to the shopping centre will be bookshop Bloomin' Books, in Denman Avenue, which will close on July 31 after 30 years.
The owner Kate Colley, is moving the business closer to where she lives and it will become part of a store in Newtown called Better Read than Dead.
Ms Colley said the move had been planned for three years.
Development consent was given in June for an expansion of the Bova pharmaceutical commercial operation, in the former McDowell's building, into what had previously been retail space.
Submissions opposed to the development application (DA) highlighted the loss of retail space.
"Caringbah was once a thriving place to do shopping," said one submission.
"Now we have nothing but chemists, cafes and hairdressers.
"With this and the lack of parking on the other side of the road, people will bypass Caringbah and get their coffee and hair done elsewhere. That will leave a ghost town."
Another submission said: "Caringbah is dying".
"Caringbah was once the retail centre of the shire. Now there are so many empty shops. One of the latest casualties is Caringbah Jewellers - formerly Opperman Jewellers - who must have been in Caringbah for about 50 years.
"Caringbah does not need lunch rooms and meeting rooms in prime retail spaces - 'the visual heart of the Centre' as described in your own development control plan 2015 for Caringbah.
"It needs exciting, innovative retail stores to attract shoppers."
This article first appeared on www.theleader.com.au
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