One of the joyous experiences in business is undoubtedly witnessing its growth, as its success takes it to the another level. Years and years- and years- of hard work and sacrifices are etched deep into the walls of a business’ premises, so when there is success and expansion, it is well- deserved.
After fifty years in Buckley Street, Marrickville, the Bananis family, of Faros Bros Seafood, had the grand opening of their new, spacious and modern premises, which are incidentally only across the road of the old premises.
The Faros Bros story, however, goes even further back; Having run a fish and chips shop in Kingsgrove for a couple years, George and Dorothea Bananis then set up a small operation of oyster shucking in their rear garage of their Marrickville home. George remembers a dozen oysters would cost only 50 cents… !
It was in 1969 that George and Dorothea bought an old wooden house on Buckley Street, Marrickville, and established Faros Bros Oysters; back then, Buckley Street was both residential and industrial, so the Bananis family lived in their house and had their small oyster shucking operation in the rear garage.
How George came up with the business name was he was reading a local Greek newspaper and there was a pencil etching of a lighthouse and this inspired him to use the Greek word, φάρος, which translates as ‘lighthouse’ for his business. As George explains, ‘Lighthouses are so important for shipping and large fishing trawlers, so I thought it was a fitting name for our new business. Lighthouses help bring back fishermen safely to shore.’
At the time, Buckley Street had quite a number of Greek businesses like George Skinas’ Galaxy Imports; Jim and Kostas Alexopoulos’ famous Attiki Yoghurt, and George Adrianakos and his sons ran Rallis Timber. By the late 1960s, Marrickville was already building up to its renowned association as being the ‘Greek’ suburb- Little Athens.
Like so many Greek migrant families struggling to get ahead in their adopted homeland, it was a tough balancing act between bringing up their three young children, Anastasia, Thalia and Pandelis, and keeping up with the demand for their oysters. The daily routine was to pick up the oyster very early in the morning from Sydney Fish Markets, open them up in the garage and then make all the deliveries to various clubs and restaurants. And there were even their children’s pick ups from school! As George Bananis recalls, ‘It seemed like an endless cycle of hard work. Fortunately, we were young and energetic to keep up with this busy schedule.’
In the mid 1970s, the family moved to Earlwood while still maintaining the old wooden house as their business; in 1983, this house was finally demolished and a shop and factory, with a small freezer in the rear, was built. All the Bananis children worked in the family business during busy periods of the year; it was also in 1983 that, as a young sixteen-year-old, Pandelis, joined the business on a full time basis.
Back then, most of Faros Bros’ oyster shuckers were Greek; with Marrickville’s changing demographics in the late 1980s, many employees were from Vietnam and other Asian countries.
George then partnered with Arthur Athanassiades to run the Blue Marlin seafood restaurant in Sydney city for a couple of years in the mid 1980s, while Dorothea and Pandelis continued working Faros; as customers began asking for other seafood, Pandelis initiated expanding the range of seafood offered to them. As Pandelis points out, ‘Customers would come into our shop and ask for seafood we did not have. Witnessing a demand for this seafood prompted us to introduce it. Our range just grew and grew.’
What attracted, and subsequently maintained, their customers was Faros’ balance between reasonable prices and fresh seafood, and their reputation grew and grew from there.
In the 1990s, Pandelis married Marianne (nee: Christo) and she joined the family business. Thalia worked full time for a couple of years , and Anastasia and her husband, Peter, worked on weekends and busy periods during the year. And now, all the children and grandchildren help out at busy periods of the year such as Christmas, New Year and Easter. Hence, Faros Bros has become a truly family business. With the passing of years, George and Dorothea gradually eased their workload in the family business; today, Pandelis and Marianne run it.
After eleven years of meticulous planning and hard work, Pandelis’ vision of a much larger and modern operation was realised when Faros Bros Seafood moved across the road and its grand opening is just in time for Christmas!!! Ironically, the new premises are on the site of where another significant Greek company, Attiki Yoghurt, used to be.
Asked about the move, Pandelis emphasised what Buckley Street means to him, ‘Marrickville, and especially Buckley Street, is such an important part of my life; so much of my time was spent here- this is where I grew up! As we worked such long hours, we spent more time at Faros’ premises than our own house(s). So, Buckley Street is like our home.
‘We outgrew our old premises, so we are very fortunate that we found our new premises, only across the road, so we did not have to move very far (laughs)! People know us being located in Buckley Street; being here for fifty years, we have three generations of family as customers, as grandparents, their children and now grandchildren shop from us, and this is a very special relationship that can only be built up over a long period of time.
‘We are lucky that our strong connection to Buckley Street and Marrickville will be maintained!’