Paul Mendels owns The Nut Shop, a long-standing presence in Sydney’s Strand Arcade. In this interview he talks about his family’s migration to Australia, his father’s purchase of the business and the changing retail market for sweet and savoury nuts and confectionary. In the excerpt below he recalls the effect of World War II restrictions on trade in both the Nut Shop and the Strand Arcade.
We had only the Vienna almonds and one that we now call “sugared”, like sugared peanuts, and we had some chocolate lines. I think there were about three: chocolate marzipan, chocolate brandied prunes and [we] covered the Vienna almonds in chocolate and we called them “chocolate almonds”. We did that first thing in the morning before it got really warm and then I put the chocolates in the fridge to cool them and then from about half past nine, ten o’clock onwards only the Vienna almonds. It was very busy. We were only open two or three hours a day; the rest of the time we were manufacturing and people queued up because everything was in short supply: you couldn’t get sugar, you couldn’t get almonds, you couldn’t get anything. We even rationed things. In other words, during the war years customers were rationed to a quarter pound of Vienna almonds and if they were in uniform they could get half a pound. But what happened fairly soon after that, people moved out of Sydney. You might have heard – the Japanese were going to come and a lot of the shops in Strand Arcade were empty and actually Strand Arcade got quite neglected. And so first of all they gave us a shop next door, the so-called “storeroom”, and then later on when business began to pick up again we took several rooms on the first floor; then we no longer manufactured in the shop. And I’m talking now about 1944, ’45 onwards, and we had one room where we made our chocolate which had fridges in it – we didn’t have air conditioning –and the other room was the room where we did our cooking of Vienna almonds and similar things.