By Vasilis Vasilas
For us Greeks, as well as other nationalities, family is the centre of our life. For the Greek migrant generation(s), their hard work and sacrifices were all dedicated for their families’ better opportunities and quality of life. And in business, it is admirable to witness as family businesses develop and grow- as the decades pass- and become thriving third-generation businesses.
Although Danias Group may today be a successful property development company, the diversification of their business has its deep roots in iconic Danias Timber at Marrickville. Positioned on one Sydney’s busy traffic arteries into Sydney city (Victoria Road), the Danias Timber yard is local landmark- everyone knows where it is…
The Danias story in Australia goes back almost seventy years when Evangelos Danias migrated to Australia in 1952- in one of the earliest migrant groups under the Australian Government Assisted Passage Program (ΔΕΜΕ). Migrating as tradesperson, Evangelos worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme and on the construction of a dam in Tasmania; he then worked as a miner throughout NSW and Queensland. As his son, George, recounts, “With a swag and his Triumph motor bike, he went wherever there was work- all over Australia. He was a great saver too; by the time he finally settled in Sydney, he was established financially. It was a very different time back then; as the first of his family to migrate, he had the responsibility to financially support his family back in Greece- by sending money home- so he only married after all his siblings were married.”
Evangelos married Konstantina Tsekos, and they settled in Enmore where they had their family- Suzie, George and Michael were born. It was a very Greek household, with the family’s local parish being Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni Greek Orthodox Church, Newtown.
As a tradesperson, he was a regular customer at the second- hand demolition yard- which sold building bits and pieces- on Victoria Road, Marrickville; the yard was run by demolisher Cole William and the property was owned by the Crooks family. With so many Greeks settling in the Marrickville area at the time, he was offered a job there. According to George, Evangelos would always recount a story, “He was told, ‘There’s gold in here. If you are smart, you will own it one day…’ Six months later, he bought the yard and our family had a weekly tenancy with the Crooks family until 1999.”
Evangelos was very entrepreneurial; only a year after buying the yard, he began stocking West Coast Oregon timber for roofs and frames, and different types of flooring. The yard was already shifting from second hand to new timber; within such a short time, 90% of our timber was new.
In the beginning, the business was based on ‘mums and dads’ customers; over the years, it evolved and large building companies such as Mirvac and insurance companies became customers. According to George, one of Evangelos’ main principles in business was building strong relationships, “My father always treated his customers as friends. We deal with so many third-generation builders- the grandfather, father and son- who are still customers. So many of customers became ‘κουμπάροι’- my father must christened half of Sydney’s Greek children (laughs)!”
All three children- Suzie, George and Michael grew up in the business. When Evangelos came home with the news a house was being demolished, the whole family would jump into the truck and off they went to the site where they would all help out loading the truck with items. With such a growing business, it was inevitable the children would later join the family business; Suzie joined the business as soon as she finished high school; George joined a couple of years later; and Michael joined after completing his university course. Michael set up the highly- successful “Hardwood Floors” within Danias Timber. In the last twenty years, George’s son, Evan, and Suzie’s son, Evan Angelopoulos, have joined the team to make the Danias Group a third-generation family business.
The Danias Group’s success is based on their realisation that they have achieved everything as a family. When asked what brings him the greatest joy, George immediately states, “Family”, and he goes on to explain, “Family is sacred for us. Family can make or break you. The greatest gift God gave me was my parents; the greatest gift my parents gave me was my brother and sister. We have always been tight as a family. When we were children, our father was driving us somewhere and we, as children, began bickering and arguing among ourselves; he pulled over the Valiant Safari and told us off for arguing as siblings. It was a simple lesson on how important family is in our lives. And whether it is in business and life, family is everything to us.”