Bondi Icon Approaches Half-Century
Young Nick Dimitrios and his wife Louiza migrated from Cyprus in the 1950s looking for a new start in a new country, like so many European post WW11 migrants. Nick had worked at the Salt Lakes of Cyprus and as a result of the unrest between Greece and Turkey, each disputing claim to the island, Nick was trained in the military as an explosives expert.
After arrival in Australia, they started up a fish shop in Bexley where they learned to cope with all the challenges in their adopted country. They had four children: Dimitri, Christine and identical twins George and Jim. They lived above the shop, which required long hours of hard work, for the next 20 years. The children all attended Bexley Public School followed by Kogarah High.
One terrible night while the family was asleep upstairs, a drunk driver behind the wheel of a semi-trailer drove right into the shop. The place was wrecked but the family had no choice but to rebuild.
Nick decided to move the business to a more popular tourist area, and found the opportunity to open a new shop in 1972 in Campbell Parade. Bondi Surf Seafoods has since continued to trade successfully in the same location for 48 years. The whole family has been involved in the business and, following Nick’s retirement, the shop is currently managed by George.
His day starts at 4.30am when he begins his 80 hour, six day week setting up the shop for the day’s trading: rotating stock, filleting, cleaning and cooking. His brother-in-law, Paul, buys the seafood at the Fish Markets from 5am each day. Siblings and cousins have all been involved in the work of the shop at different times and are still available when required. The success of this business must primarily be attributed to the strength and resilience of this amazing family.
The shop is open seven days a week to 9pm in the summer and 7pm in the winter. George recollects times that were extremely good and others which caused hardship; the Sydney Olympics in 2000 brought many new customers in from the beach volleyball; business slowed down during the removal of centre parking in Campbell Parade and the construction of the new fence along the middle of the street. Other regular negative impacts occur during extended periods of bad weather, and because it is seasonal, winter is always a slower time. Rising rents in the area contribute to the failure of many local businesses but George says he is lucky to be able to successfully negotiate with his landlord, and to have so many regular, loyal customers.
George has seen the loss of other iconic traders in the area: the Gelato Bar was for a very long time a regular habitat for its luscious European strudels and great coffee, Vallis’s Milk Bar on the corner of Hall Street was renowned for its great milk shakes and various other pharmacies, Max’s Shoes, butchers and grocers catering to the mainly working class clientele have all disappeared over time.
The longevity achieved by this local institution has been a mixture of its location attracting passing tourists, the loyalty of so many customers, both local and international, and the freshness of its product. George and his family take great pride in their achievements in this regard, and hope to continue the family tradition of hard work and service for many years to come. George has three children including twins, so who knows, we may yet see another set of twins smiling over the counter of Bondi Surf Seafoods.
Congratulations go to the parents, Nick and Louiza, who have faced many challenges supported by their strength and love for their family, and all their customers wish them the best for the continued success of this local Bondi icon.