By Vasilis Vasilas
It is not so long ago- maybe thirty years ago- when practically every take-away shop in Sydney was owned by Greeks. Every suburb did not have only one Greek takeaway; depending how large and busy the shopping strip was, there could have been two, three or more of these Greek takeaways. As the post War generation of Greek migrants aged, retired or passed away, the iconic Greek takeaway has also faded too.
There is definitely a lot of nostalgia for the old Greek takeaways, whether it is for the variety of their delicious hot foods or their warm service. One of the few takeaway shops left from the migrant generation is the Evergreen Spot along Gardeners Road, Rosebery, the Evergreen, which is run by Garifalia and Tony Ververis, and their family.
Having run shops in Deniliquin, Maroubra and Mosman, the Ververis family bought this takeaway shop in 1985- thirty five years ago- and have been running it ever since. In the 1980s, Rosebery (and the surrounding suburbs such as Mascot and Alexandria) had so many factories and workshops that the Evergreen takeaway was such a busy, busy shop. Like so many of the shops along Gardeners Road, the Ververis family has witnessed the great changes in the local area, as these factories and workshops relocated or shut down. Yet, the Evergreen is still there, as the longest running takeaway shop along the Rosebery stretch of Gardeners Road!
What strikes immediately strikes you when you enter the Evergreen Spot is the Ververis family’s warm Greek hospitality- that it is the way it was, with the ‘Yes, please,’ and the ‘Thanks, love’ with a Greek accent. And if the nostalgia does not get you at the greeting, then the shop’s original décor will definitely take you on a journey to the past; walking into the shop is like walking into a time capsule leading to our childhoods; as soon as you walk into the shop, the Formica decor reminds you of the 1980s! The shop still maintains the original signage for the menus and even the old promotional signs! It brings back a lot of memories…
And if that is not enough of a nostalgic trip, what will send your tastebuds into a frenzy is eating a good ol’ fashion 100% beef hamburger; eating a hamburger at the Evergreen just makes you realise how much you have missed such a taste; this hot delicious hamburger sends you back many years!
It is no wonder we get so nostalgic for such shops, as the Evergreen Spot, and what they offered us. In the case of the Ververis family, there is still that homely Greek service that makes you feel as though this is your local shop and a great sense of belonging, and they are still offering great tastes of their cooked foods.
It becomes very evident that Garifalia and Tony make such a great team and I ask Garifalia how the shop is well run, “Tony and I have worked together for almost forty five years. We have never separated our tasks in our shops; there is no ‘he does this job and I do that job.’ If Tony has to clean plates, he does so; if I have to cook on the grill, I do so. We do all jobs together. I can say Tony is a lot more patient than me- I am more restless and anxious to get things done (laughs).”
And there are so many questions about how long they will keeping going and how has the area changed over thirty five years, and Garifalia states, “In the 1980s, every second house across the road from the shop was owned by Greeks. Thirty five years later, these people have either gotten old or have passed away. We have gotten old too. Tony and I still keep on going; we are still relatively healthy, so we can work on. I love living in Rosebery; this is my home. Next door is my friend, Angela, who owns Angela’s Hairdressing Salon and next door to her is my friend, Katina. I have company; and our Greek Orthodox Church, Agia Ekaterina, is only down the road. I am lucky that I am surrounded by good people.”
A lasting impression of my visit is the elderly Australian customer, who has been a regular customer for thirty five years, comes into the shop with her walking stroller, sits at the cubicle for her meal and politely says her goodbyes and sets off again… The Evergreen and the Ververis family have been part of this elderly lady’s life for decades and continue to be. It just shows you how important such shops have been to so many people and the local community.