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Stalactites turns over new leaf

You won't be able to grab a late night souvlaki at Stalactites until June as this Lonsdale Street staple undergoes renovations

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The $1 million refurbishment will retain a few of the restaurant's old materials and use them in a new, quirky way.

24 April 2013

For the 24 hour business, closing its doors was never an option. Until this week. The famous corner Stalactites restaurant is closed for two months as it undergoes a vast, $1 million renovation.
Still under the helm of the Konstandakopoulos extended family since 1978, Stalactites will overhaul its kitchen and restaurant layout for a fresher and more modern look.
Operations manager Nicole Konstandakopoulos has been on the planning front for over 18 months and is happy to see the job get started.
Bulldozers moved in on Wednesday and it will take a week to completely gut the shop.
But don't worry; the famous stalactite inspired ceiling is staying put.
"We're keeping the stalactites ceiling," says Ms Konstandakopoulos, a little defeated.
"We see it every day so we're a bit sick of our ceiling - it's funny, we actually did a survey of almost 3,000 of our customers, and the theme that came back was always the same: do not change the ceiling, keep the ceiling!"
The renovation will reuse many of the current restaurant's fit-out in a new way. You'll find the wooden floorboards will be converted into doors and used in the construction of the bar, while the slate walls will be recycled and become part of the take away floor area.
Melbourne architects Chaulk were commissioned to design the refurbishment, which will be undertaken by building firm Liquid Lines - whose recent work include the refurbishment of the Stokehouse restaurant and Vue de Monde.
The two month process is a necessary one, says Ms Konstandakopoulos.
"I do believe the stores always need to be changing," she says.
"Keep offering the same and your market will be the same. You always constantly need to refresh and renew and make sure your business is always modern and keeping up to date with what's going on in the world, fashion and trends."
As the second refurbishment but definitely the biggest undertaken in over 30 years, the old staple will still retain its character but move into the 21st century.
But, like most restaurant renovations, Stalactites isn't taking on the project to secure new customers. On the contrary, they are renovating with the recommendations of their loyal customers and tailoring the dining experience to them.
"We're not trying to appeal to a new market; we're just trying to appeal to the same customers that we have. We want to keep it nice and comfortable for everyone," Ms Konstandakopoulos says.
For a Greek business, its success has been in its ability to tap into the Australian market, not just rely on the Greek community. Most days the clientele vary from business people grabbing a hearty lunch to tourist groups wanting a taste of Greece.
"We've never really had a Greek clientele and that's probably one of the strengths of the business, because it appeals to such a wide market," Ms Konstandakopoulos says.
But, as the scaffolding goes up and the bulldozers come in, the CBD will be without it's 24 hour souvlaki joint.
To date, Stalactites has served over 5 million souvlakis to the public, seven days a week for 35 years.
At least for the staff, the time off the 24 hour cycle will be well appreciated.

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