By Vasilis Vasilas
With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent panic buying throughout Australia’s supermarkets, who can forget the incredible queues, the empty shelves and even brawling customers? How many times did we visit supermarkets to look for certain items and realise they were still unavailable? And yet, people still persisted with supermarkets, as the uncertainty and fear set in, and continued with the daily cycle of visiting supermarkets and coming away in disappointment.
Passing by my local supermarket at 6.45am, on my way to work, and I was shocked at the long lines of customers waiting for the 7am opening; whether it was seniors morning or public health service workers, the long queues were the same length… And when I did finally go shopping on various days, I noticed the same people in the queues and believed they surely had bought enough for certain item and were now buying for their children and grandchildren.
In all this madness, Earlwood’s Trianon Cake Shop stepped up to support locals in their efforts to find items such as flour, sugar and even rice. Up went the sign in Trianon Cake Shop’s window that flour, sugar and rice was available there.
The Trianon story goes back a very long time; it is a story of joy and sorrow, and a triumph over all adversity. Andreas Efthymiou and his κουμπάρο Dimitrios Christou opened up the Trianon cake shop in Morfou, Cyprus. Despite being such a successful business, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, with Morfou subsequently coming under Turkish occupation, the Efthymiou and Christou families lost everything and became refugees.
Life has its wonders and ironies. Both Andreas and Dimitrios, and their families, migrated to Sydney, Australia; Both men worked at the Alaska Cake Shop in Kingsford; and they would come together, again, to buy a cake shop in Earlwood. And they named their new business, Trianon.
The Efthymiou and Christou families worked the business together for eight years; they parted ways when Andreas and his family took the opportunity to run the Athens Cake Shop at Maroubra Junction. In 1994, the Christou family decided to sell Trianon and it is Andreas and his two sons, Arthur and Chris, who take over. These days, it is Andreas’ son, Arthur, and his son-in-law, James Pitsiniagas, who run the shop, so all the sweet delicacies have passed onto the next generations- Trianon Cake Shop is a third-generation business!
Like so many small businesses, COVID-19 has greatly hurt the Trianon Cake Shop’s business. James was very upfront about the whole situation, ‘Business just dried up. The flow of customers into our shop became a trickle. As a result, it was very sad to stand down our employees for the time being.
Easter is just around the corner. This time of year, we are meant to be getting the Cypriot flaounes and tsourekia ready. This year, we have no idea of what to make because we cannot gauge what people want. There is so much uncertainty at the moment as workers are losing their jobs and they don’t know what is going to happen. People are hesitant and reserved about everything.
As Greeks, we all look forward to Easter; this year’s Easter will be like no other as we will not be able to go to church and we cannot even celebrate with relatives and friends. To give you one item as an example of how things have changed is the candles godparents give to their godchildren; we have so much stock but who will buy these candles if they cannot visit their godchild or go to church? Both the supplier and us lose out.”
Asked about how the initiative to begin selling flour, sugar and rice came about, James explains, “Our customers kept on coming into our cakes shop and recounting their experiences of how shelves were empty as a result of the panic-buying. They were very stressed and anxious about the whole situation. We just kept getting customers asking for flour and sugar.
“So, we just wanted to do something for the community- to relieve our customers of all this stress. We rang up our supplier and enquired about his supply of items such as flour, sugar and rice, and he had stock.
“And our customers keep coming in and asking for these items, and they are very appreciative about this initiative. They are happy about this.”
With the uncertainty about the Federal and State Governments’ next measures and how they will affect the community, James remains hopeful about the dire economic situation, “We are all hurting and there will be more hurt to come, but I am hopeful it will pass and we will all return to some normality.”