Kosta ran a greengrocery shop in the mall. There were other Greek families running some of the shops in the mall – the Chronopolous family had the newsagent, and Chris Tlokas’ wife managed a hairdresser. Kosta’s fruit and vegetable market was famous in the area for its piles of produce carted fresh before dawn from the big wholesale markets, by Kosta’s sons and his brother and brother-in-law. They always piled up the tomatoes and zucchini, the lettuce and eggplant, the oranges and pineapples, in fantastical arrangements of colours and shapes.
Kosta himself was also famous amongst his customers for his jolly Greek persona, his loud greetings, his friendly waves and his big black mustache. He was a caricature of a greek fruit and veg man, and he played it up to the full. In fact, though his parents were immigrants, Kostas himself had been born in Australia. But he copied the Greek mannerisms of his father because he knew his suburban customers liked it. And his Greek customers were drawn by a subtle loyalty to one of their own kind.
One day a rival fruit and veg place opened on the other side of the mall. It was a fancy modern place, with its produce marked “organic”. It was right next to the exit from the Coles supermarket, so Kosta thought Coles would probably lose some of its fruit-and-veg buyers to the new place. But he thought also that his own customers would stay loyal, would still come to the other side of the mall, like they always had, to see the enticing displays at Kosta’s place, and exchange a Greek greeting with The Man.
After a couple of months though, Kosta had to admit that his takings were down. He went over to the new organic place to reconnoiter. he walked around the artful display tables with small baskets of undersized, pock-marked ‘organic’ apples and pears, misshapen onions, undersized potatoes, their prices 30% higher than his. He surreptitiously watched the customers, collecting the windblown lemons and the tiny wild asparagus in artisanal wicker carry baskets provided by the shop. They looked like lefties to him. Not his clientele. But then he saw a couple by the refrigerator. They were his customers – he recognized them. They were buying carrot juice. Carrot juice! Kosta didn’t even stock such a thing.
He returned thoughtfully to his shop and considered matters. He’d have to make some changes, move with the times, though he swore that he’d never carry that under-sized, over-priced organic crap. But he could go in for juicing. He summoned a family meeting with his sons and brother and brother-in-law, his wife and daughters, and announced that they’d be installing a carrot juicing machine. Yes, Kosta’s customers would be able to get fresh carrot juice, not that pre-juiced stuff they sold from the fridge over at the organic place.
he juice machine representative was there the day the new machine was installed in pride of place in the centre of Kosta’s shop, where the Seasonal Specials stand had once stood. It and its watermelons were now squeezed in between the grapes and the berries. The juice machine rep ran the first carrots – washed and peeled by Kosta’s daughter Kristina – through the machine. Small plastic cups of carrot juice were handed around to staff and passing customers Kosta couldn’t stand the stuff, but he was pleased to see that some customers liked it. One bought a container full of fresh carrot juice.
The machine rep shook Kosta’s hand and wished him well with his new machine. The he looked thoughtful, and said:
“You know what you need here, Mr Theopolous? You need a great promotional decor item. To announce your new carrot juice. The company has a terrific item in its catalogue – a giant inflatable carrot! You could hang it here, right over the machine. People could see it from the mall. It’d really get the customers in.”
Kostas liked a bit of display, and a giant inflatable carrot sounded good to him. He beat down the sales rep on terms, and got the carrot cheap. Overnight his sons managed to pump the thing full of air and suspend it from the ceiling above the juicing machine. It was huge – about eight feet long, vivid orange, with a few black lines to indicate its carrot shape and its purported gestation underground. At one end the nylon from which it was made turned and equally vivid green, to indicate the feathery carrot top.
Kosta’s carrot became the talk of the mall. People made sure they walked down to that end of the shops just to see it. Some even bought some carrot juice from the machine. Kosta’s daughter Kristina read the instruction manual, and soon she was adding orange juice to the carrot juice, or kiwi fruit and ginger. The juice business started to take off.
The manager at the new organic place got a giant inflatable artichoke for his shop, but if wasn’t quite the same.