By Vasilis Vasilas
Years and years can pass by; a shop can change hands a number of times. Yet, it maintains its status as an ‘institution’ in the local area… and beyond- such is its enormous reputation!
Admittedly, the new owners of an ‘iconic’ shop have a great responsibility in working hard to maintain their shop’s reputation; their success in achieving this continues to provide its customers that important familiarity and connection with the past, and maintains it in the present and builds it into the future.
As we keep walking up Illawarra Road, we encounter a very historical shop, The Yeeros Shop, run by Poppy Papadopoulos and Kostas Tomaras. Stepping into a shop like The Yeeros Shop and all the childhood and teenage memories come flooding back- who has not had a yeeros from The Yeeros Shop?
Interviewing Kostas Tomaras, he and wife, Despina, decided to migrate to Australia in the early 2010s; what Kostas quickly realised was Australia is the land of work opportunities if one was willing to work hard. A chance discussion with someone guided him to The Yeeros Shop, owned (at this stage) by Poppy Papadopoulos. Like ‘a fish to water’, Kostas thrived in his environment and, after one-and-a- half years, Poppy offered him a partnership in the business. Today, Kostas runs the shop, with Poppy overseeing its operation.
The history of The Yeeros Shop goes back to when ‘pioneer’, Yiannis Benetos, opened it in the early 1970s as Marrickville Yeeros. Stamatis (and his son John) Blatzellis had the business for almost forty years before Poppy (Papadopoulos) bought it. And, according to Kosta, this long history that makes this ‘institution’ so important, ‘For so many of our customers, The Yeeros Shop has always been there for them. This is why the longevity of Stamatis Blatzellis, together with his son John, of running the shop for many decades has played an important role in building the reputation of The Yeeros Shop, and its strong relationship with the community! Such a relationship can only develop over a long period of time!’
What makes customers continue coming back to The Yeeros Shop after decades? As Kostas points out, ‘Owners may have changed; our product remains the same. The ingredients mix of herbs and spices used in preparing our yeeros meat, whether beef, lamb or chicken, has not changed since the very beginning. Only four of us know the recipe – Benetos, the Blatzellis’, the Papadopoulos’ and myself. We are asked about our recipe for preparing the meats, but it is what makes our product distinct and different, so we hold onto our recipe.’
What is amazing about The Yeeros Shop is its enormous impact it has had on people’s lives. There is so much nostalgia surrounding a shop like this. As Kostas points out, people keep coming back to the shop; there are so many instances where the groomsmen and groom will drop into The Yeeros Shop for a yeeros before they go to church and so many clubs and associations will make an annual ‘pilgrimage’ to the shop. The shop holds so many memories for so many people…
Asking Kosta of the secret ingredient of this great yeeros… and he simply laughs me off….