Meropi Kehagiadis: Toy shop owner

I was born here in the early 60s on Bourke Street (just on the southside of Cleveland Street) and lived here until about 1969, I then moved to Kensington and returned here about 2012.

I remember as a youngster, at about four years of age, I used to sit on the doorstep and watch the neighbourhood. My family, my community, they were loving, they were caring, they laughed with you in joy.

Growing up, I discovered there was much beauty in the world, but there was also a darker side. Living close to the pubs the locals would sometimes get a little bit violent. They used to come and fight and get drunk.

Living next to a delicatessen, they used to put the milk crates out with the bottles. I thought it was amazing we got milk delivered to us, and milk went out. But sometimes they used the bottles in fights. Generally it was not as safe as I feel it is now.

In some ways Surry Hills has changed, and in some ways it has not. Now definitely it is a more diverse community.

There are still a few of the older generation (from my father’s era) that are around. They go to the local church, and they pop in to the shop to visit. I was never really away from here at Surry Hills, because my father had an office, and I used to work there, and so everyone knows me.

Now that I have re-established my home here I feel very much on a new path.

Me and my cat, my friends, family.

I think everyone’s temperament has changed because the world has changed. I really believe it takes an individual to have a life, a family to develop it, but a community to support it. I think that’s what we need in the world. I know Surry Hills is just a pocket in a massive place (the earth) but every pocket matters and every person matters.

I’m not a strong believer that we have to go through a difficult time to be a better person.

I have had some individual traumas and some health scares. I am, and have been on my own most of my life but my friends and family have been a great support. Especially my sister.

I also have one of my best friends who taught me that whilst things may be very hard, to reach out and that people do care.

I’m a solicitor by profession and I still practice, but my sister (who gave me the inspiration to open the toy shop) felt it would help alleviate some of the more ominous things in life.

Running a toy shop is excellent. I have eight nieces and nephews under five. The best thing about running a toy-shop is that the children and the adults understand that fun is important. People smile and have fun, that in turn gives me joy.