It will be the end of an era on 27 May, when renowned catering icon the Paragon closes its doors.
The famous Katoomba (NSW) institution was established by the Simos family in 1916 as the Paragon Cafe and Oyster Palace, and is one of the last remaining examples of the Greek cafe and milk bar phenomenon of the 20th century, well documented by Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis.
Having celebrated its centenary in 2016, for the majority of that period the business was operated by the Simos family. The cafe has since changed hands a number of times, purchased by Bruce and Joan Gavin in 2000, then by Barbara Allatt in 2003, and current owner Robyn Parker in 2011, who has been passionately pursuing the cafe’s restoration, in a bid to take it back to its 1920s glory.
But persistent difficulties with the owner of the building, including poor heritage maintenance, have put Ms Parker in a tough position, with little choice but to cease operating.
The stunning Art Deco building has catered to hoards of people over the years.
Developed by Jack (Zacharias) Theodore Simos, from the island of Kythera, together with the help of his American wife Mary (née Maria Panaretos) from Elkton, Maryland, it became known for its American-style confectionery and ice-cream.
By 1921 it had dropped its Oyster Palace moniker and was being advertised as Paragon Sundae and Candy Shop.
They soon installed a soda fountain, American-made freezers for ice-cream and milk, and a number of major architectural renovations.
Over the years the Paragon was further developed and remodelled by celebrated shopfitters and architects to include a ‘modern’ banquet hall, a ballroom, a dining room, a chocolate and ice-cream factory, a bakery, and a front dining area decorated after World War II with carved alabaster friezes depicting figures from Greek mythology.
In 1975, the cafe was recognised for its cultural significance and listed by the National Trust in NSW. Jack Simos passed away a year later, two years short of his beloved Paragon being placed on the Australian Heritage Commission’s Register of the National Estate (now the Australian Heritage Database).
Today the interiors remain intact, and it is a an opulent cafe that is unmatched across the country.
Visit the Paragon Cafe before it closes its doors at 63-67 Katoomba St, Katoomba, NSW. See more at theparagonkatoomba.com.au