By Vasilis Vasilas
One of the admirable aspects of shop keepers and their businesses is when shop keepers fulfil their childhood dreams and open a business which they always wanted to do. And what ensures from this fulfillment is a guarantee that they truly love what they do and it is wonderful experience to witness the love and care they subsequently place in their business.
Coming across the Chondros family that run Enfield Produce: Pet and Garden Supplies, and their dedication and care for all their pets and plants is so evident that you think that they are their own. Yes, a Greek pet shop in Sydney! And it is jam-packed with products and pets!
Throughout my long taxidi, I have tried to capture the diversity of Greek business throughout Sydney and Enfield Produce: Pet and Garden Supplies epitomises how Greek migrants became involved in so many different types of shops and businesses.
And what I love about Enfield Produce: Pet and Garden Supplies is that it is such a successful business that it withstands all the market pressures to remain competitive and a great alternative to the impersonal megastores. This is a family business at its best!!!
And Harry Chondros is undoubtedly one of those larger-than-life characters who has enjoyed a wonderful life. When Harry was working in Tumut NSW (1960s), at the Excelsior Café, he became so much part of the local community that he played rugby league for the Wynyard Pub’s team, Wynyard Wobblers, became a bull-jumper at the local rodeo club, which competed in rodeos all over NSW (and even Queensland) and even trained in Ju-jitsu… which is simply amazing for any Greek migrant at the time.
Harry’s love for animals dates back to his childhood in Agia Paraskevi, Lesvos; his childhood dream was to grow up and become a veterinary doctor. Although fate took Harry to the other side of the world, Australia, where he worked for decades in country cafes and seafood shops, his love for birds and animals never ceased. Harry recounts, ‘In Australia, I bought my first two budgies from a shop in Wagga Wagga; as, I did not have a cage, I created my own cage. I remember asking my brother-in-law, Harry, if I could have a cage at the rear of our shop, the Excelsoir Café. Once I started breeding birds, our backyard was full of cages! Our backyard was transformed into a mini-aviary!’
An opportunity came up to buy a ‘general store’ type of shop on Coronation Pde, Enflield. Loving animals and nature so much, Harry believed this was an opportunity to fulfil his dream. As Harry recounts, ‘As I always wanted to do something with nature and animals, I wanted to transform this small mixed business shop- which sold everything from fresh produce to coffee to herbs and spices- I finally got to work with something I really wanted to do all my life- to establish a pet and garden centre. I was very fortunate that my wife, Kiki, was very supportive in this idea and we did it together.’
Visiting Harry and Kikis’ home and their love for animals quickly becomes apparent when you witness how many pets of their own have! When Harry wakes up every morning, he looks after his own pets before he sets off to the business. And when he is at the shop, his love continues there too, ‘For me, I love all the animals in our shop; as long as they are in our shop, they are my pets. I go to the markets to buy their food. At home, I have so many aviaries in my backyard as well as a chicken coop. Animals are part of my life- whether I am at home or at the shop… ‘
Over the years, the pet and produce aspects of the business simply grew and grew. Harry and Kiki’s sons, Miltos and Theodoris, are also a very important part to the family business. Harry explains, ‘They have really brought the shop to a higher level, as they have taken advantage of the far reaches of the internet and the shop now sells so many products online. My sons also introduced gardening products to the shop and that part of our business has really been successful.’
While the megastores are so impersonal, it is the Chondros family’s personal customer service that really makes a huge difference to helping and supporting their customers in what they are looking for, ‘Customers can get tired of all this self- service in the megastores, so they appreciate the face-to-face, hands-on customer service our staff provide. So many customers compliment my staff to me, expressing how wonderful and helpful they are. This is what brings customers back to our shop! That personal knowledge, expertise and experience is invaluable.’