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submitted by Ruth Ostrow on 29.12.2005

Charles Andronicus

The Andronicus Family

Becoming a cafe society

From, The New Boy Network

Ruth Ostrow

William Heinemann Australia
Richmond, Victoria
1987


Charles Andronicus makes no bones about what is at the root of his family’s success. ‘It is because of the influx of Europeans after the Second War. That is when coffee, espresso machines and cafes became popular. ‘Our growth is owed to the continental person, especially Hungarians. They brought cafe lounges to Australia after the war. They showed us how to enjoy life.’
Coffee, like so many food products, was largely neglected by the local population.
But as the Andronicus family, the Lipkies and Carlo Valmorbida soon discovered, the influx of immigrants after the Second World War helped acquaint Australians with these foreign tastes and lead to a surge in popularity in many continental, Middle Eastern and Asian foods.
Charles, 58, says that after the Second World War, the Nestle company launched Nescafe instant coffee in Australia which also ‘helped to put coffee on the map’.
The next thing the Andronjcus family knew, they were selling mass quantities of their coffee to the leading supermarkets and cafes.
Ironically Nestle, a Swiss-owned food multi-national, recently bought the trading activities (brand names) of the business from the family, in the way that many larger corporations have taken over family businesses in the past few decades.
Charles, who admits that as a young man he used to ‘open the upstairs window of the shop and throw my dad’s golfball-sized chocolates at the heads of passing tram guards’, now runs a restaurant-coffee lounge in the city with one of his children, Grant. His brother George, 55, is continuing on at the Andronicus factory as an adviser.
The Andronicus business started as a tiny shop in George Street near Circular Quay, where Charles’ father John, and John’s brothers Charles and Emmanuel, used to sell their hand-dipped chocolates and their coffee from 1910 onwards.
John came to Australia at the turn of the century. He was thirteen years old and one of eleven children. The Greek island of Kythera where he was born was barren and poor and John’s father—a fisherman—encouraged him to leave in search of a better, more affluent, life. Five of his brothers were already in Australia so he came here and, after some schooling, joined his brothers in the shop.
The business ambled along for many years, selling a variety of foods, but the Depression took its toll as did the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932. This meant that traffic which had previously gone down George Street was now diverted.
As a result, John bought his brothers out in 1937. While he continued the retail operations, he also did some wholesaling on a small scale, and manufactured coffee and hand-dipped chocolates.
Charles says his father John and his mother Kathleen roasted and ground coffee for retail and wholesale, at the shop, using raw coffee they had brought in from Arabia, Africa India, Brazil and New Guinea.
Then the war broke out and luxury products such as choco lates and coffee did very well, according to Charles, who together with his brother George had begun working in the business on school holi­days. But he says: ‘As there was little manpower to run the business, Dad was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. He would close the shop at 5 pm and then go out to the factory to start mixing the cream for the hand-dipped chocolate.’
In 1946 John sold the choco­lates business to focus his efforts on coffee. His brother Charles then decided to open a chocolate shop and small factory to continue the sale of Andronicus hand-dipped chocolates.
John, meanwhile, started selling continental food in the premises alongside his coffee. This included olives, sesame seeds, block cheese and halva.
His son Charles used to drive around the city in his MG delivering coffee to people.
In the early 1960s his children, Charles and George, formed their own wholesale company, Andronicus Coffee Pty Ltd, while John and Kathleen continued at the shop until 1973 when it had to be closed to make way for development. (The Sydney Regent hotel now stands on the site.)
Then the boys opened a factory at Crows Nest in Sydney and from that location the wholesale and distribution business was also conducted. Later other factories were opened. Charles says:
‘We had to expand—we couldn’t leave it at that. We had to grow.’ Woolworths showed interest in the product and ‘within a year our coffee beans were in practically every Woolworths food store in the state, as well as in other supermarkets such as Franklins.’ The business grew substantially, then in 1984 Charles sold out to George who in 1986 accepted a takeover offer from Nestle.

Charles Andronicus - Andronicus coffee 1986

Nestles corporate time-line:

NestleHistTimelineAUS.pdf

Charles says: ‘Dad’s ambition was to build up a company that could be enjoyed and later taken over by his sons. He created good-will and my brother and I just expanded on it. He left us a beautiful name, we were able to approach any bank for credit. My mother was his right arm.
‘His success came in that he was prepared to work hard. The old Greeks knew how to work in those days. They were taught to work hard and think hard.’

Pendergrast's The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

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3 Comments

submitted by
Maria Hill
on 13.01.2006

http://www.cybernaut.com.au/greeksinoz/viewpoints/viewpoint1945.htm Chapter: GREEK FAMILY LIFE IN N.S.W. 1900-1945: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS OF 'GREEKNESS' ".....Furthermore, the Kytherians were forced to look after the Kytherians for as 'Arthur Mavros' explains, although there were Greeks from other parts of Greece such as Akrata, Tripoli and Sparta in the country towns "... it had to be a Kytherian shop for us to go and get work, elsewhere they did not easily want us, it had to be from the same place... the Kytherians supported the Kytherians... George Andronicus, the son of the original Andronicos settlers who set up a chocolate and coffee retail shop at 197 George Street, where they would frequently entertain Kytherian arrivals; effectively displays the regional loyalties that existed and still exist amongst the Greeks in Australia. " All the milk bars and cafes in N.S.W. country towns eemed to be run by Kytherians', says George today. 'They used to ring up with an order for coffee or olive oil or something and my father would just hear the name and say OK, he's all right, and tell me to give them credit without anything in writing. The man was from Kithira and that was enough. Other people he might tell me to be careful about; there's a certain amount of ill-feeling between people from particular different areas of Greece. But always when he told me to be careful I would find out later on he was right, that man did indeed need watching. From memory IO don't think one of the Kithirians he regarded as a good risk ever let us down'. "

submitted by
Hugh Gilchrist
on 13.01.2006

The Shop-keeping phenomenon. New South Wales. 19th century to WWI. From, Chapter XI Australians and Greeks 1 The Early Years Halstead Press Sydney 1992 Author: Hugh Gilchrist. "...From the Kythiran village of Mylopotamos came seven Andronikos brothers, of whom four built up a tea, coffee and chocolate business which, eighty years later, is still eminent in the beverage and confectionery field. Their interest in tea and coffee and in emigration is said to have been aroused by an uncle, Dr Karydis, a medical officer of the Suez Canal Company. Nikolaos, the first to arrive (in 1897), acquired a shop in Tamworth, and in 1908 married Antigoni, a daughter of the Reverend Serafeim Phocas. He was followed by brothers Minas (Mick), who opened a cafe in West Maitland, Kosmas (Charles) and Emmanouil, who opened a shop in Tamworth. In 1907 Charles and Emmanuel Andronicus opened a small shop at 127 York Street in Sydney. Charles visited Calcutta and Colombo and brought back chests of tea and coffee, and fish-frying oil and crockery and fancy goods. Emmanuel, armed with samples, travelled by train around New South Wales, seeking orders from Greek and other shop-keepers for tea, coffee, olive oil, sauces, crockery, cutlery and other items, advancing credit where appropriate. As their business grew, Charles became a kind of unofficial arbitrator in disputes between up-country Greeks, and a mouth-piece for their grievances. Ioannis, the youngest brother, after a month at Port Said with his uncle Dr Karydis, arrived in Sydney when he was 13 and lived with his brother Mick in West Maitland, where, for lack of English, he had difficulty in studying at school. When Mick sold his cafe and moved to Sydney, Ioannis went to brother Nicholas in Tamworth, where he had a happy year at the local convent school. Nicholas meanwhile had taken in as partner another brother, George, who had landed in Sydney in 1907. In 1910 Charles, Mick and Emmanuel, joined by John, moved Andronicus Brothers from York Street to 197 George Street, where three of them lived in rooms over the shop. Young John was instructed in the techniques of tea and coffee blending and of packing goods for dispatch. Mick returned to Greece and in 1912 Nicholas and Antigoni settled in Sydney, where Nicholas managed the Marathon Cafe at 72 Oxford Street. George Andronicus then joined forces with a cousin, Georgios Potiris (who had come to Australia in 1902 and had worked at Barraba), and bought the large Apsley Hotel in Walcha, which they managed until 1919. Now 19, John Andronicus helped Emmanuel with up-country sales, working the towns near the Queensland border. With his friends John and Antony Notaras he went fishing and shooting at weekends, and on one such excursion his rifle accidentally discharged. The bullet passed close to his heart but John Notaras got him onto a horse-cart and into Grafton, where Dr Page (later Sir Earle Page of the Country Party) operated on him and saved his life; and after three more operations in Sydney he recovered. After early difficulties, and by prodigious efforts, Andronicus Brothers prospered and its partners played important parts in the Greek community. Other Andronicus relatives also arrived in Australia before 1915, including Stylianos, who partnered his brother-in-law Panayiotis Kominos in shops in Lismore and Muswellbrook and in a cattle property, and Kharalambos, who had the Club Cafe in Toowoomba. Another cousin, Mikhail Potiris, who, like his brother George had been persuaded by an Andronicus to leave Mylopotamos for Australia, worked with George Potiris in Barraba and later had a shop in Queanbeyan, but sold it in 1914 and eventually became the second Australian Greek to graduate in medicine".

submitted by
National Archives, Australia
on 29.04.2006

The strength of many Greek businesses in Australia was often due to family involvement. The Andronicus Brothers began trading in New South Wales in the early 1900s selling coffee and chocolates, and over the years the six siblings, and later two of their sons, built up a very successful business, which certainly lived up to their 1920 trademark ‘AB – Always Best‘. http://members.octa4.net.au/~genient/progenitor.html