The building that houses a beloved milk bar frozen in time for six decades is up for sale after its elderly owner moves into a nursing home.
Nick Fotiou ran the Olympia Milk Bar in Sydney’s inner west, barely taking a day off after buying it with his brother John in 1959 – even as the building collapsed around him.
As the streetscape of Parramatta Road in Stanmore changed around him, the Greek immigrant donned his apron and served up milkshakes, tea and burgers.
However, the building fell into disrepair and Mr Fotiou refused all offers to help maintain it, even when the council tried to force him out of security.
Nick Fotiou ran the Olympia Milk Bar in inner west Sydney and barely took a day off after buying it with his brother John in 1959 – even as the building collapsed around him
What remains of the two-story storefront will be auctioned on March 7, with the front boarded up and covered in graffiti and posters advertising musical performances
Olympia finally closed in early 2021 when the rebellious owner moved into a nursing home at the age of 91.
What remains of the two-story storefront will be auctioned on March 7, with the front boarded up and covered in graffiti and posters advertising musical performances.
Raine & Horne Commercial advertised the 214m2 building as an ‘opportunity for rebuilding or redevelopment’ despite being listed on the NSW Heritage Register.
‘The zoning plan and building management allow for a multitude of uses and redevelopment possibilities. The property will appeal to a wide range of owner-occupiers, investors and builders/developers,” the ad read.
The property, which is being sold by the public trustee on behalf of Mr. Fotiou, is expected to fetch between $600,000 and $1 million.
Although the shopping street is now unrecognizable, hardly anything has changed on the inside since the shop was fitted out in 1939.
Owner Nick Fotiou was a constant presence on Parramatta Road in Stanmore in Sydney’s inner west, but has now moved into a nursing home
Even as the streetscape changed from Parramatta Road to Stanmore, the shop remained the same
Decades-old posters hung along the walls, including 1970s band The Street, and the shelves were filled with old boxes of chocolate bars and cans.
Mr. Fotiou would emerge from the shadows to take orders and process payments on an old cash register.
The lights in the milk bar were always off and Mr. Fotiou lived above the shop and did not like to talk about his private life.
He refused to stop even when dust collected on the antique decorations and mold started to appear – or when the ceiling collapsed.
The building became so dilapidated that after a long battle, the council closed it in 2018 until repairs were made.
But the elderly owner was unhurried and insisted he go ahead at his own pace and fix the asbestos problem, the rodent problem and the leaky ceiling.
The dilapidated building has been decaying for years and is now boarded up
Although the shopping street is unrecognizable, hardly anything has changed inside since the original Olympia he bought was decorated in 1939
Mr. Fotiou would emerge from the shadows to take orders as he hunched over the bar, handling payment on an old cash register
Decades-old posters lined the walls, including 1970s band The Street, and the shelves were filled with old boxes of chocolate bars and liquor cans
It even reopened briefly in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve had problems and problems and problems,” Mr Fotiou told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018 of his struggle to keep the case open.
“Slow, slow, slow… But not to rush me. I don’t know how long it will take,’ he said in broken English with a heavy Greek accent about his plans to restore his shop.
The store had legions of fans, including a 4,500-strong Facebook page, but the proud owner declined all offers to fix the problem.
“He spoke as if he intends to make the repairs himself,” one person wrote on the page while attempting to avoid the borough’s closure in 2017.
Without prompting, he admitted that his ladder is not safe to use when alone. I strongly advised him against going up there.
“When I asked him if he would accept money to help with repairs, such as a grant or a no-strings-attached gift, he said, ‘I tell you what I told the council, I want my customers to come back.'”
Olympia had legions of fans, including a 4,500-strong Facebook page, but its proud owner declined all offers to fix the problem
All he allowed was a temporary, and ultimately fruitless, repair to the ceiling
Mr. Fotiou bought the building with his brother John in 1959, and the property retains its original furnishings dating from two decades before (photo is the interior)
Known as Dr Death of Dracula because the lights in the milk bar are always off, Mr Fotiou lives above the shop and is reluctant to talk about his private life (pictured is the milk bar)
All he allowed was some temporary and ultimately fruitless work to fix up the ceiling.
Now the milk bar is boarded up and Mr. Fotiou has finally accepted the end of an era and moved into a nursing home.
The NSW Heritage Register describes the milk bar as ‘of historic importance as evidence of the development of commercial leisure activities along this section of Parramatta Road from 1912’.
Originally a billiard room, it reopened as a milk bar in 1939 and has since retained its name and furnishings, including a colored terazzo that reads ‘Olympia’ on the floor.
The Olympia featured in at least one novel, two songs, several works of art, was the subject of a radio documentary.
Any redevelopment of the store would have to meet strict requirements in order to keep the rich history intact as much as possible.
Some photos provided by Eamon Donnellytaken for The Milk Bar Book.
The Olympia has been featured in at least one novel, two songs, several works of art, and was the subject of a radio documentary
Mr. Fotiou adjusted in his apron every day and served milkshakes, tea and hamburgers