Opera House lets down hair with pop-up convenience concept

Hazem Sedda and family at the opera house.
The Sedda family proudly on show at the Opera House. [L-R: Samer Sedda, father and Redfern Convenience founder Ali Ata, Yara Ata and Hazem Sedda.] Photographer: Prudence Upton
The Sydney Opera House saw a unique milestone passed over the weekend, with its first ever convenience store operating on the premises.

An invitation from the organisers of the Bingefest film event, to set up shop in one of the most iconic buildings in Australia, was a huge opportunity for Redfern Convenience Store owner and operator Hazem Sedda.

Mr Sedda set himself the task of personally operating a pop-up store in the Joan Sutherland Theatre foyer for 24 hours straight, from 11pm on Saturday through to 1pm Sunday, saying it was probably the longest shift he has ever worked.

“Actually it was more, it wasn’t just 24 hours, I had four hours to set up and four hours to pack up afterwards as well, it was so big” he said, after a well-earned rest on Monday.

Bottled water and chips were the biggest sellers to Bingefest attendees, who Mr Sedda said were very happy and friendly customers, although the custom came in intense, 15 minute intervals between festival sessions.

“I thought the custom would be better… Every hour there was a 15 minute rush, in those 15 minutes I couldn’t even breathe, I was serving about 50 customers each time,” he said.

Turnover-wise, Mr Sedda said the store did well, and Redfern Convenience would certainly be ready to set up shop in the Opera House at Bingefest 2017.

Bingefest organiser Alister Hill said he personally invited the Redfern Convenience store to Bingefest as a part of the festival’s philosophy of connecting with the community.

“Hazem just has a really beautiful demeanor within the Redfern community, and with Bingefest and a lot of our festivals at the Opera House we really try to connect with the wider Sydney Community, and to do it in a different manner.

“It really made sense to us: Hazem has such a lovely spirit, and he takes a lot of care with his customers, and his digital profile has almost taken on a second life from the store itself in Redfern.”

Mr Hill admitted the store concept was a “bit of an experiment” and one that he said fit in perfectly with the concept of bingewatching TV.

I thought it actually fitted in really well… it was one of the main things you saw entering the main theatre, and it was a bit like the Opera House was letting its hair down,” he said.

“Bingefest is very much a 24 hour plus celebration of bingewatching entertainment and digital content, and I think the convenience store actually play a strong role in that, and I think the Opera House can be perceived as perhaps being a bit high-brow with respect to a lot of the art that happens in that space, and we just really wanted to make it as welcoming and comfortable as possible, for a festival that runs over 24 hours.”

Mr Hill said that although planning to yet to move forward, given organisers had been awake, in some cases, for up to 48 hours, it was likely the store concept would feature in next year’s festival.

“We’re still in discussions about how to do Bingefest next year. We’re going to loop back and work out what should be bigger and smaller, and Hazem is definitely going to be a part of those conversations.”

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