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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 March 2018
14 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM PHOTO: TRAVELIN Katoomba’s Paragon Cafe farewell The nationally renowned NSW food catering icon will cease trading on 27 May LEONARD JANISZEWSKI & EFFY ALEXAKIS he iconic Greek cafe celebrated its centenary in 2016. Over most of that time, the Simos family had established, developed and operated the Paragon. True to its name, this food catering institution is unquestionably the finest remaining example of the Greek cafe phenomenon of 20th century Australia. It has high Art Deco T architectural styles and furnishings created by renowned architects, designers, and artists and an ongoing reputation for high quality custom-made chocolates and pastries. The Paragon offers its customers a bygone era of popular dining. Their development during the 20th century evidences the full evolution of the Greek cafe in Australia with its influences from America. Established by Jack (Zacharias) Theodore Simos in 1916 as the Paragon Cafe and Oyster Palace, it soon acquired a speciality for American-style confectionery and ice-cream. By 1921, the year that Jack was naturalised, the store was being advertised as the Paragon Sundae and Candy Shop, with Jack's brothers George and Peter working at the confectionery manufacturing and baking end of the business. With the fitting of a soda fountain, American-made freezers for ice-cream and milk, and a number of major architectural renovations, Jack's goal was to develop the Paragon into a high class catering enterprise. Katoomba's Orphan Rock, a geographical outcrop, became the business' logo, representative of the standalone commercial excellence to which Jack aspired. In achieving this aim, he was ably assisted by his wife, Mary (nee Maria Panaretos), who had been born in Maryland in the US, where her parents, originally from Kythera, ran a cafe. Jack was also from Kythera - he’d arrived in Sydney in 1912. Following an overseas trip to Europe and the United States, Jack married Mary in 1930. By 1922 the Paragon was hailed as 'the acme of good taste and modern ideas . . . presented by an enterprising proprietary that believes in nothing but the best'. The look of th cafe played a big part in its impact. In 1926, a major remodelling of the Paragon was undertaken by shopfitters Harry and Ernest Sidgreaves. During that time the main front room was enlarged, a new marble soda fountain and glass shelving were installed, decorative wall panels erected, and new lights fitted. Eventually, with the contributions of theatre architect Henry Eli White during the 1930s, the Paragon boasted a modern banquet hall (with a pre- Pre-Columbian Art Deco banquet hall, Paragon Cafe, Katoomba, NSW, 1938. Joyce Thomson, Paragon Cafe interior, Katoomba, NSW, 2016 During World War II, teenage Joyce was employed after school, on Saturdays, and during school holidays, as part of the cafe’s serving staff. Behind the counter she made sodas, milkshakes, and sundaes. She fondly recalls the kindness shown to her by the Simos family. Photo by Effy Alexakis, from In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, National Project Archives, Macquarie University.
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