By Vasilis Vasilas
What is so fascinating is how small businesses become part of lives with the passing of time? Whether it is our familiarity or trust with them, we develop such a strong connection with them; although the decades may pass, and people’s tastes may change too, such successful small businesses are not affected- in fact, they just continue to develop and grow. Miloway Earlwood Wines, run by the Ipermachou family, is one such business; for locals it seems to have always been there but its strong reputation for its diverse range of high-quality Greek and Cypriot products and great service has broadened their customer base nationwide.
Although the Ipermachou family has been running Miloway Earlwood Wines for forty, the family story goes back to Dierona, Cyprus, where Harry (Ipermachou) was one of twelve siblings and he wrapped up a short-sleeve shirt and shorts, and set off for Limassol to look for work… at the age of eight years old!
With his brother, Panayioti, already in Sydney, Harry joined him in 1968 and his first job was at British Motor Company, or as it was known by so many migrants, Morris, where he had to fit the carpet in the cars on the process line. Having married Loula, also from Dierona, Cyprus, and finding work at Cinzano (Beverages), they initially settled in Mascot. Over the next eight years, Harry became leading hand, union delegate and then promoted to production foreman and then Penfold Wines approached and invited him to work for them.
Being a regular customer of Antoniou Wines, Earlwood, its owner Andreas Antoniou informed Harry of his intentions of selling the business; having dreamt to run his business, Harry grabbed this opportunity in 1980. Asked what the difference between being an employee and running his own business, Harry humorously states, ‘When you have your own business, there is no watch or clock to look at the time because you do not go home until you finish what you start. I remember one time, in those early years, where I unloaded a truck of all these products on my own- I did not go home until it was done.
‘Secondly, there are so many sacrifices, over a long period of time, that are made for a business to grow. People may admire a successful business but they do not realise the enormous efforts and sacrifices that were made to achieve that success.’
Highly motivated by their great love for their growing family and yearning for what their homeland could offer, Harry and Loula quickly expanded the delicatessen side of business, diversifying range of products. Harry recalls the challenges of importing Cypriot and Greek products, ‘In the 1980s, we were unknown and Cypriot and Greek companies were reluctant to deal with us. They would often say, “Australia? Why would I want to export to Australia?” and I would be back-and-forth from Greece and Cyprus to Australia, to make proposals, try their products, discuss how I wanted things adone and then make a decision. It was a very long process, that took many, many years to build that relationship between Greek and Cypriot companies and Miloway.
‘Nowadays, Cypriot and Greek companies seek us out (Harry laughs); Miloway has a strong network across Australia for their products to be promoted and distributed. In 2015, Miloway was recognised by the Greek Government for its wide variety of imported Greek products.’
Harry and Loula’s children. Kostas and Maria, grew up in the family business; despite having their own careers, they officially joined business in the 1990s.
After all these decades and success, Harry’s love for the business has not waned at all; as he explains to Loula. ‘Our business is like our third child; we have spent my time here than our house,’ and this love is reinforced by Harry’s daily routine, ‘Every morning, I come to Miloway and I heat up the water for my coffee and light up the vigil lamp (kandili). After my coffee, I will do- what I call- my tour of the shop and I look at all the shelves and products, and I correct anything that is out of place.
We may be closed on Sundays but I still come in and check over the business- and have my coffee. If I do not do this, then there is something missing in my day (laughs).’
But what bring Harry great joy is- what he calls- the lure of Miloway’s front steps, ‘So many people come up our stairs and it is only after they are in our store for some time that they make a decision on what they want to buy. This is very special because it shows our store draws customers
Forty years young, and still going strong…!!!