By Vasilis Vasilas
Climbing up Illawarra Road, as you approach Marrickville, the first shop situated on the very edge of the suburb is ironically Marrickville’s longest- running Greek shop, Danas Deli Café, run by Dimitris and Agathi- and their two daughters, Tina and Olga.
As the shop’s awning states, the shop has been operating since 1962; over 57 years, the Danas family has witnessed Marrickville’s so many changes and they have adapted accordingly to continue providing its customers high quality products and great service.
When Dimitris bought the shop, Marrickville was a very different suburb to what transform into- only a few years later- with the mass influx of Greek migrants. Buying the shop off a New Zealander, who had owned the shop for many years, he highlights the difficulties in undertaking a new business as he was now the ‘dago’ running the shop and all of the previous owner’s customers no longer came to the shop.
Dimitris praises the support of his previous employer, Andreas Antoniou, who ran a delicatessen in George Street, Sydney city, as he gave him enormous support to transform the shop into a delicatessen, Mediterranean Delicatessen.
Shopping attitudes and behaviours were very different at the time; as Flemings supermarket was down the road, the Greek shoppers would do their shopping there, then come and buy what they needed from the delicatessen… then, Dimitris would deliver all their shopping- including all the items from Flemings- to their homes.
With so many newly arrived Greek migrants not knowing English and how various financial and bureaucratic institutions worked, Dimitris’ delicatessen was also a hub for advice, support and services. Becoming a Justice of the Peace, he helped so many migrants with officiating legal documents.
Having married Agathi in 1974, they are a dynamic duo as they have worked together ever since. Business grew and the delicatessen was extended to accommodate more products to satisfy customers’ yearning for Greek products. In the meantime, Dimitris diversified his business by owning a liquor store in Leichhardt and buying Marrickville’s Flemings supermarket.
However, the opening of Woolworths across the road from Danas’ delicatessen had a great impact on the small businesses in the area; customers could conveniently do their fruit and vegetables, groceries and meat shopping in the one place.
Moving with the times, the Danas reinvented the family business into a deli café in 2004; the front section, run by Dimtris and Agathi’s daughters, Tina and Olga, is café while Dimitri and Agathi run the delicatessen in the rear of the shop. Dimitri does not hide his joy of working with both his daughters in the deli café as it highlights they are a family business.
Until recently, the outside of the deli café proudly waved both an Australian and Greek flag as Dimitri is proud of his two homelands; he wishes the younger generation of Australians of Greek heritage maintain a strong sense of Greek identity and support the Greek business network.
For me, what I admire about the Danas family is their perseverance and determination to continue servicing the local area; they have experiences so many changes in the local area and adapted to them… successfully.