SAMSON needs its deli back.
For generations the little hub of shops on the corner of McCombe and Patterson avenues gave the community somewhere to grab a quick litre of milk, line up for fish and chips, check Lotto tickets, get a hair tizz for a wedding, or learn the value of money as they swapped a fistful of shrapnel for their first bag of lollies.
Alana Hancock remembers the deli fondly from her childhood.
“I used to live in Kardinya, and when I was like, 10, I still remember my mum and dad would drive here because it was a continental deli – the old-style fruit and veg and all the salamis, and there was a fish and chip shop, a hairdresser and a newsagency,” Ms Hancock says.
These days she lives in Samson with her own small tribe of daughters, and says the demolition of the shops almost a decade ago left a void in the community.
“I’ve lived here for 16 years, and I was missing it.
“No one was talking to their neighbours any more, and I noticed a lot of new young families coming in and they had nowhere to connect with the community.”
Looking for a career change that would give her more flexibility to spend time with her family, and wanting something to give the community a bit of spark, Ms Hancock says that over a few drinks one night she decided to invest in a coffee van and see if Fremantle council would give her permission to set up in Samson Park.
A noisy generator wasn’t quite the vibe the community was after and there were a couple of false starts, but when the council found a power point in the park and a way to pass on the cost, things took off.
“Everyone’s talking, and now we walk around and everyone’s like, ‘hey, how are you going’ and it’s been amazing,” Ms Hancock said.
“I’ve even got someone on a date through it; an elderly couple that both lost their partners.”
The buzz has got her thinking about the weedy block where the shops once stood; a development application for a couple of storeys of apartments lapsed years ago.
Tracking down the owner has been tricky, but Ms Hancock says it wouldn’t take much to return the site to a hub, even if on a temporary basis such as a weekly market.
“I used to live in Queensland and there’s a lot of places like industrial area where they’ve just done pop-ups.
“Different cultures have so many different foods, so they have everything from Croatian to Indonesian to Italian, and you set it up on a weekend.
“You have a couple of people playing a little bit of music, you get everyone down and then you change it every weekend.
Fremantle deputy mayor Frank Mofflin, who’s seeking re-election in the new East Ward, says the empty shops are a big issue in the suburb.
“Every second person that I speak to when I’m out campaigning, and talking to people generally, and probably every precinct meeting, it still gets raised as a gripe: ‘What the hell’s happening with that block?’,” Cr Mofflin said.
“And from a council perspective, we talk about empty shops in the centre of Fremantle and saying ‘what do we do with them’, but we’ve got empty spaces in the suburbs that we really need to work on as well.”
Cr Mofflin said the council could work with owners on creating markets, or do the consultation with a community about what they would like to see there.
He could see temporary parks until the owner was ready to develop, and says the Samson site could have a basketball court for kids.
“It doesn’t impact the long-term use of this land for the landholder.”
But he’d ideally like to see something like a markets, saying Samson has one unenviable trait.
“If you are in Samson and you want to go and socialise and meet people, it’s probably the last place in Freo where you have to leave your suburb to be able to go and do that,” he said.
by STEVE GRANT