Class(ist)y Coles

A tale of two supermarkets by Max Hall.

There are two Coles stores in Bondi Junction.

One store shares the Westfield building with Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton. It features wide aisles and high ceilings, where a fulltime barista and custom pizzas cook while you wait.

Enormous curled lettering on a brick backdrop, between shelves of artfully arranged bread, lets you know that the bakery (“Stone Baked Turkish Bread”, “Multigrain Sourdough Cobb”, “Sunflower Seed Triangles”) is separate from “THE KITCHEN” (“Cookies and Cream Cake” for $55, “Indian Cuisine”, “NEW Winter Range of Salads”).

The butcher, fishmonger and deli are separate too—each has its own wide, tiled alcove like a chapel in a cathedral of consumables. Chalkboards remind you to “HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO”. Large wooden letters herald the wholefoods aisle (“simply HEALTHY LIVING”). Aisle one is completely kosher.

One hundred metres down the road (past two discount chemists, beneath Aldi, opposite Kmart) is the second Coles. Disabled access is better down here, though the aisles are narrower and the signage not quite so large. The bakery, deli and butcher share a long counter.

The basic stock is pretty much identical, though this Coles doesn’t present their four varieties of fetta in large ceramic bowls next to the “Serve Yourself Olive Bar”. For some reason the $2.70 schnitzel I occasionally buy is only ever on special at the second store.

One Coles has an embedded Vintage Cellars; the other directs you to the nearby Liquorland. One has dedicated cabinets for prawns and salmon; the other a slightly superior range of two minute noodles. One has tables and free papers for coffee-related relaxation; the other provides a higher chance of trolley collision.

A casual observer in Westfield might wonder if Lorna Jane, Nike and a small conglomerate of business attire brands have started sponsoring grocery shoppers en masse. Customers down the street lean towards t-shirts and seem a little less aggressive.

I tend to shop in the first Coles, despite having no money or need for its particular extravagances. At some level I probably wish I were as beautiful, healthy and affluent as the people that rush through the self-serve checkout with fresh trail mix and a flash of platinum. Somewhere, I imagine, a marketing executive is lazily stirring their quinoa with a fork, contemplating the eating habits of the various tax brackets.