Cornel’s was Sri Lanka’s first supermarket, when it took the city by storm in 1980. It was similar to the modern supermarkets mushrooming all over the country today with ample parking space in front and a big, brightly lit up building groaning with all the goodies money could buy—but back then, it was novel to Sri Lankans who had never seen the likes.
Set up by businessman Cornel Perera in collaboration with Fitzpatricks of Singapore, it was idyllically placed between Station Road and Methodist College with an entrance through Galle Road and another through Station Road. No sooner it commenced operations, vehicles cruised in and throngs of shoppers rushed in excitedly to shop amidst plush surroundings in air-conditioned comfort. Here was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Colpetty Market, the municipal market near the Liberty Cinema that had been built in the mid-1970s inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, but had lost its appeal over time. Cornel Perera recalls the days when many big-time politicians patronized the place, including JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera who, despite his espousal of socialism, had a taste for the good life and used to buy Chinese chicken imported from Singapore.
The items sold at Cornel’s were novel, different from the usual fare like MD jams and Elephant House drinks. Here were wonders from another world. There were spreads like Meadow Lee that came in colourfully illustrated plastic tubs; breakfast cereals like Weetabix, cheese wedges in different colours and flavours and even a Japanese kiddies gel toothpaste in a plastic tube adorned with colourful animals against a white background—a far cry from the simpler looking tubes of locally produced toothpaste with germ-fighting red stripes kids back then were used to polishing their enamels with.
Cornel’s later shifted to Steuart Place, Colpetty, near where the Sri Lanka Tourist Board building now stands, before branching out to other localities.
Colpity Cornals Super Market was a super hit until Liberty Plaza was opened. Still I remember, during Christmas season cars were in line to enter cornel’s from Cornels to Colpity Junction. The products at Cornels were the BEST. Even today no other local or International super markets offer better meat products. When Liberty Plaza opened at the basement they started ANGLO ASIAN Super market. People started to do shopping and marketing at the same place. With that started the beginning of the end of Cornels.Nilan Wettasinghe
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