You know you’re getting old when your choice of footwear is a pair of comfortable slippers. You know you’re getting old when you’d far rather tool around in a soft-riding, automatic Mercedes-Benz instead of a snorting, snarling sportscar.

And you know you’re getting old when you start saying things like “I remember when…”

But the truth is – having moved to Hillcrest well over thirty years ago – I really do remember when it was a quaint village.

Horses and bicycles could be safely and serenely ridden on streets that today are choked with traffic rushing somewhere, anywhere, only so long as it’s in a hurry.

There was just one set of traffic lights, notably the set on the corner of Old Main and Inanda Roads.

Children were allowed to play on the streets until sundown.

And many, perhaps most, shop owners knew their regular customers if not by name then by sight, for the crass and rampant commercialisation and corporatisation of retail hadn’t yet gained traction.

Hillcrest back then truly was a calmer, more restful place, with Durbanites fondly regarding it as “the countryside.”

But all is not lost.

At the likes of Hillcrest KwikSpar there’s still more than an echo of the old village. Partly, I like to think, because co-owners Mike and Leigh-Anne Egling grew up in this community, as do their children today.

Mike, in fact, was my school mate at Hillcrest High back in the Eighties, and captain of our rugby team which redefined the term “social side” with some epic but very good-natured losses to other schools.

So while the store might have a distinctly cosmopolitan feel with goods sourced locally, from around the country, and even abroad, giving Hillcrest KwikSpar a range of wares that you’d be hard-pushed to find anywhere else, customer service isn’t just stellar. It’s personalised.

Mike and Leigh are almost always to be found in the store, and they know many of their customers by name. In fact, they’re often on the store floor, physically unpacking boxes or overseeing the intricacies of running a store that surely competes for the title of one of Hillcrest’s most-loved.

“We spend more time here than we do at home,” laughs Leigh, who constantly scours South Africa for new and tantalising lines to bring in to the store, with just one upcoming product due to debut being cocktail rotis.

“So we’ve set out to create an environment that’s not only great for our customers but for us to work in, too.”

This, says Leigh, who’s a product of Kloof High – which she erroneously maintains was a far superior school to Hillcrest High back in the Eighties – is something that spills over to their staff.

“They greet customers by name, and to many of  them are like family and friends.”

I can attest to that. I’m in the Egling’s store once, sometimes twice a day.

Not only do the staff know my name and ask how my regular business trips to Johannesburg – a dark, satanic mill of a city if you ask me – were, but they know my own likes and dislikes. They keep newspapers for me. They allow me to buy far more freshly made doughnuts than is necessarily good for my health.

And they take the time on even the busiest days to stop and chat, bearing in mind that the store is open 14 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You simply don’t get that in many other places, and it makes me achingly nostalgic for the Hillcrest of three or more decades ago.

“There are very few places you can go where staff greet you by name,” concurs Mike. “But I suppose it’s something that comes naturally for us to encourage, given that both Leigh and I grew up in this community.”

“You know,” he adds, “the staff here are really just an extension of our own family values, and we certainly wouldn’t dream of disrespecting anyone in our home.”