Photograph: Vio and Ayesha Nedianu working feverishly on Saturday the 30th July, the third day of operation of the Roxy Cafe. Between the annual Orange Festival, and the 150th Anniversary of the opening of Bingara Public School, Bingara was 'buzzing'.
The Roxy Cafe, Bingara, known as the Peters and Co Cafe, gains a very long term operator.
This means that now, within the Roxy 'complex' there exists 4 fully operational and fully established components - the Roxy THEATRE, the Roxy CAFE, the Roxy INFORMATION CENTRE, and the TAFE Hospitality Traing Centre.
The final jewel in the crown will be the Roxy Museum.
It it worth recounting the history of how all these very important aspects of the Roxy Complex came into existence.
Restoration and Development of Greek & Kytherian Sacred sites.
Preservation of Australian and Art Deco Heritage sites.
Bingara is a small north-west NSW town, that lies within Gwydir Shire. The population of Bingara is 1300. The map shows the location of the town in relationship to the North West of NSW, the NSW coastline, and the Queensland border. Bingara is a 7 hour drive from both Sydney and Brisbane, and about 3½ hours drive to the larger coastal towns. In 1936, three Kytherians, Peter John Feros, Katsehamos, (Mitata), George Ernest (Proto)Psaltis, Katsavias, (Frilingianika), and Emanuel Theodoropoulos Aronis, known as Emanuel Aroney, (Aroniadika), inspired by a “megalo ithea”, built a magnificent art deco Cinema, the the Roxy Theatre. Adjoining it they also built a well furnished café, the Roxy Café. This traded under the name Peters and Co. Peters and Co signs are still displayed on the shop fronts of numerous former Kytherian cafes throughout NSW. Behind both buildings, the partners also built a large guesthouse.
The story of how the Roxy came to be built is well told by the grandson of Peter Feros, Peter Prineas, in his superbly written book, Katsehamos and the Great Idea. In 2010, the Roxy was the subject of an article in the June issue of the Magazine of the Royal Historical Society, and featured prominently in the first of the Fox Bio Channel programmes ‘As Australian As’, during May. The programme was written and narrated by Australian actor John Woods.
Those who have read Katsehamos and the Great Idea will know that, gross over-capitalisation, and a determined opponent, Victor Peacocke, who operated the Regent Theatre, and a subsequent discount price war, that broke out between the two groups, bankrupted the Kytherians. The Roxy was sold off, and operated as a cinema until 1958 when it closed down. Apart from the occasional films screening, the odd boxing match or roller disco, it would spend the next forty years virtually lying dormant. Members of a new generation were growing up in the town having never stepped foot inside it. They may well have walked past the facade every day of their lives, with little clue as to the grandeur that lay within. Whilst the Roxy Theatre became a “sleeping beauty”, the Regent was well patronized through the 1950s.
In 1999, The (then) Bingara Council purchased the Roxy Theatre. Meanwhile, the Roxy Café was operated by various Greek and Kytherian owners until the mid 1960’s, when it was turned into a memorabilia shop. It morphed into a Chinese restaurant for twenty years, until it too was purchased by the Gwydir Shire Council in 2008.
The Roxy Theatre successfully obtained funding from the three tiers of Government extant in Australia, and it was transformed into a veritable “palace of dreams” – in Kevin Cork’s phraseology – a ‘parthenon down under”. Triumphantly opened in 2004, it is one of the most beautiful Art Deco theatres in Australia.
In November 2009 the Gwydir Council was the recipient of a grant of $750,000 through the Department of Heritage, Environment, Water and Arts, under the Australian Commonwealth Government Jobs Fund. This funding ensured that the Roxy Cafe, was also restored to its original splendour. Additionally, a medium scale conference facility was renovate upstairs above the café, as well as a museum designed to celebrate the story of immigration and acknowledges the significance of the Greek café. The Tourist Information Centre was also relocated into the Roxy ‘complex’, and re-furbished in the art deco style, to ensure the building had an integrated design.
Coincidently, the Infromation Centre was housed in the very location where another Kytherian, Dr Archie Kalokerinos, Greek-Australian of the century, maintained a doctor’s surgery for more than a decade.
In 2011, the Roxy ‘complex’ received further funding of $750,000 from Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to add a trade training centre to the rear of the Roxy Cafe. This training centre will offer Certificate III Level Hospitality Training and will be run in conjunction with the Gwydir Learning Region, the Department of Education and Training, and TAFE NSW. The building of this will be completed as of July 2012.
Architectural firm, Magoffin and Deakin from Armidale, NSW, who were the architects for the Roxy Theatre (2003), and are also the architects for the Roxy Café and Roxy Museum (2010), were again commissioned to complete this work. This extension of the training facility has again been superbly integrated by Magoffin and Deakin.
Greek & Kytherian Sacred Sites, & pilgrimage destinations
Australian and Art Deco Heritage and pilgrimage site.
Most Greek-Australians are not aware that a Hellenic Museum exists in Australia. It is housed in the opulent Mint Building in William Street, in the CBD of Melbourne, Victoria. It has been operating for 3 years. The money to fund the Museum was donated by one Greek Australian benefactor, Spiros Stamoulis.
The word Roxy in its Greek and Persian origins means bright, dawn, star. But the Roxy is greater than a bright star. Governments have paid Greek and Kytherian Australians the ultimate tribute, by spending more than $3 million over 7 years on creating what can best be described as Greek and Kytherian Heritage and Sacred Sites and pilgrimage destinations.
When Greeks and Kytherians visit these sacred sites they are stunned by the monetary investment expended on the Roxy Theatre, by the beauty of the building, by the "reverence" that many residents of the town have for the Roxy ‘complex’. Many are moved to tears at the ‘Roxy” memorial to their grandparents, parents, relatives, and their own lives in cafes, cinemas and other retail establishments in Australia.
The Roxy Cafe. The Peters & Co Cafe.
Much of the original equipment in the café was located during the restoration process. Some was generously donated by local residents, and north western Greeks and Kytherians. Sandy McNaughton has also tracked down and purchased many tables, chairs, booths, refrigeration units, and café artefacts, to install in the café, and display in the Museum. Most came from Greek and Kytherian café’s in the region. This allowed the cafe to be restored to a authentic and very high standard.
The next challenge was: could a restaurateur of very high standard be enticed to Bingara to lease the cafe? Since being ‘stirred from sleep’, the Roxy complex has been blessed by good fortune. The complex has been the recipient of a number of grants that have allowed enhanced the standard of the building and its amenity. Would this good fortune flow over to finding the perfect operator for the Roxy Cafe?
Yet again, the answer appears to be – yes it would, and yes it did. In May 2012, Vio Nedianu, a Rumanian migrant, with his Jordanian wife, Ayesha, and 6 children made the monumental decision to make a “tree change” to Bingara, and sign an extended lease on the Roxy Cafe.
Until his decision to re-locate he had been a partner in a successful restaurant called Vio’s Ristorante in the Brisbane suburb of Paddington. Paddington is one of the most competitive and densely serviced cafe and restaurant “strips” in Australia.
See the website http://www.viosristorante.com.au
The Greek’s and Kytherian’s, from as early as the 1880’s in Australia found it comparatively easy to establish themselves as cafe and cinema proprietors in Australia. A significant number of their compatriots were established in the industry and could lend them assistance, both monetary and experiential to become established. The Rumanian presence in Australia is not as numerous, nor as concentrated in hospitality as that of Greeks’ and Kytherians. All the same, Vio established himself in the industry, owning and managing various coffee shops, fish and chip’s shops, and restaurants’ in Tasmania, Potts Point, Bondi Junction and Brisbane.
As well as leasing the Roxy, Vio will be able to tender for catering opportunities in the Roxy Theatre, such as parties, weddings, conventions and other larger scale functions and events. He will also gain accreditation to be able to ‘teach’ the hospitality courses in the TAFE training centre that adjoins the rear of the cafe. Vio will bring a different culinary experience for the enjoyment of not only residents of Bingara. It is anticipated that residents from neighbouring towns such as Delungara, Inverell, Moree, Warialda, Glenn Innes, Barraba, Manilla, and even Tamworth will be enticed to sample the culinary delights of the Roxy Cafe. It is also anticipated that travellers, tourists, and Greek and Kytherian ‘pilgrims’ will also travel even longer distances to come and sample the food at the Roxy Cafe.
As you can see from the photograph that heads this entry, the food began being served in the last 3 days of June, 2012.
The Roxy currently attracts over 12,000 patrons and visitors annually to numerous events and activities held there. The Roxy projects will guarantee the delivery of further economic benefits to the town through an increase in tourism, as well as the training and employment opportunities on offer.
The Roxy Museum, The final challenge.
How can Kytherians help make these sacred sites even better?
The original neon sign has been found. Already, one Kytherian family, grandchildren of Emanuel Aroney, an original Roxy owner, have agreed to pay to restore this unique sign.
Do you have any café artefacts that will eventually be lost? Do you have Greek costumes, or other “realia”? Consider placing them on loan, or donating them to the Roxy.
Are you qualified in Museum and Gallery management? Do you have other expertise? Consider donating some time?
Are you at school or university and need to do a project on this subject. Venture to Bingara, and fulfil your requirements there?
The Government funding has not included to date electronic and computer equipment to fit out the Museum. Can you donate equipment? Are you part of a Hellenic organisation that can?
This is a chance to make a real difference.
Contact Sandy McNaughton by email.
Contact Peter McCarthy by email.
Kytherians Peter Prineas, Peter McCarthy,(aka, Makarthis, Delungra, married to Deanna Psaros), & George C Poulos are also on the Roxy Museum Committee. John Wearne, former Councillor & Mayor, and Peter A Jones, President of the Bingara District Historical Society, are the local representatives.
Gwydir Shire Roxy website
kythera-family central web-pages:
Katsehamos and the Great Idea
Download pages from the North West Magzine pertaining to the opening of the Roxy Cafe, the Orange Festival, Bingara, the 150th anniversary of the Bingara Public School, and places of historical interest in the region:
The "re-opening" of the Roxy coincided with the Orange Festival, Bingara, and the 150th anniversary of the Bingara Public School.