Hazem Sedda is like no one you’ve ever met. Owner of the Redfern Convenience Store with a serious Instagram following, he’s seen the area go through a dramatic change over his 20 year tenure. A 7up half-full kinda guy, incredibly humble, and bursting with infectious energy – it’s no wonder people travel across the country and the world to visit his store.
Hazem, how did this all begin?
HS: I moved to Australia when I was 17 years old, and I’ve been running the store since. I took over the store from my Dad in 2000. Before then, we were working together and he saw that I was doing really well so he offered me the opportunity to start running it by myself.
What’s the best bit about working at the store?
HS: I just meet so many people. Families, travellers, people from all over the world and Australia.
There’s a lot of people that come in looking sad or they are just unhappy and they just want to walk in, get something and get out. But I actually change their day. Instead of just walking in for two seconds, we chat and spend five minutes talking and then they leave with a big smile on their face.
Twenty years is an incredibly long time to be in one area, how have you seen Redfern change over time?
HS: When my father first opened the store, the real estate agent said ’if you’re still here in 6 months, other business will open’. We’ve been here since then and now the whole area has changed. You can’t find an empty lot any more. Redfern is like my family; whoever needs support gets my support.
The popularity of the Redfern Convenience store has shaped Hazem’s life along with the surrounding area. He sees the store as a part of himself. But Hazem’s life hasn’t been without struggle.
When you look back, are there any particularly tough times that stick out?
HS: Every business has its struggles. For the first seven years, I was working seven days a week, eighteen hours a day. There was no point going home, so I would sleep at the store.
You always need to think of the two year or three year goal. Don’t quit, because what’s hard today, won’t be hard tomorrow.
Are there any proud moments which stick out during the years?
HS: When we started the Instagram account, the Opera House invited us to do a pop up store there for 24 hours. It was the first time a store had been invited to the Opera House and the first time my Dad had been inside. All those years he worked only fifteen minutes away but he never stepped inside. That was a big moment for us.
How do you overcome struggle and adversity?
HS: It’s just something in my blood. I hate failure. I love a challenge. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I drop everything just to prove them wrong.
If you’re ever in Sydney and need a pick-me-up, head into Redfern Convenience Store. If the one-off, specially-imported energy drinks don’t give you a kick, five minutes with Hazem will.
Watch Hazeem’s story on Instagram.