End of an era: West End brothers call it a day
In an age where sibling love has been commercialised by the Kardashian clan, the Argyris brothers embody another time.
For more than five decades, Dimitri, Peter, Mick and Theo have worked, laughed, loved and at one stage even lived together in their tailor store on West End's Vulture Street, but today they'll lock the doors for the final time.
With them will go a small piece of West End history.
Theo, Peter and Michael Argyris. Photo: Amy Remeikis
After the passing of eldest brother Dimitri [Mitso] in 2010 and the spectre of age starting to make its presence known, the brothers made the difficult decision to close up shop as they have done everything else. Together.
“We decide to close the shop, we are not happy to stop, because we love the people ... but my brother is a little bit too old (Theo is 89), little bit and that is why we decided to stop,” Michael said.
All four brothers learnt their tailoring trade at their father's knee, the senior Philip having travelled from Kalymnos to Argentina in the 1920s to hone his own craft, before returning to Greece and eventually opening and running a store with his four sons.
Peter Argyris hard at work in the family's West End shop. Photo: Amy Remeikis
“I was 11 years old and I would finish school,” Theo said.
“[In] 1934, I started learning. If you like it, if you like the job, you try it. But after that, I took a job with my father, working together, until 1940, with the war.
"We left because the Germans came in, no food, so we went to Gaza for two years, our family.
Peter Argyris has tailored in West End for five decades. Photo: Amy Remeikis
“We went back to our country, then we start again, open a shop and we start working.”
After World War II, their island home wasn't the same and the brothers decided to make a new life for themselves in Australia; Dimitri made the move in 1953 and Peter followed two years later.
The two brothers turned to their craft to help them make their way in their new home, establishing a store on Vulture Street in 1957, living frugally out the back while they saved for a home.
In 1962 and 1964 came Mick and Theo and the four brothers soon found themselves with enough trade for a second store, opening on Melbourne Street, where the Cultural Centre now stands, in 1966.
With three of the brothers living on Princhester Street and the fourth close by, they raised their collective eight children together and one was never far from the other.
They came back together under the same shop roof in 1985, gaining their exercise by walking to and from work together
The brothers never strayed from the craft as they learned it and continued to use the same scissors, machines and techniques they learned as apprentices with their father, their well-oiled Singer sewing machines having run up thousands of suits over the decades.
The results their time honoured techniques wrought was what their customers said set them apart.
“They made my wedding suit for me about 20 years ago, and it's like new, it's wool, it's just a class act and I don't mind showing it off every now and again to friends and everyone I've shown it off to comes here for something because they know the quality of it,” Chris Economidis said, having returned to the store for one last pant hemming.
“It's an institution, it's old school and you don't get old school any more.”
Mr Economidis said the closure of Argyris Brothers was a loss for the entire West End community.
“It's a big shame, especially for the area. All the old stuff is fading away. Nowhere like it”.
The brothers have already seen a lot of changes in the suburb they made their home.
“On the corner, there,” Peter said pointing to the corner of Vulture and Boundary Streets, “was the bank, it was wood building, two storeys, the top was a store room and downstairs was the bank.
“And a couple of shops up there was a little plumbers store, a little fruit store, but that chemist ... there was nothing there. It was just wood ones (shops).
“Next door to here, another wood building, it was a shoe shop. It's a lot different now. It was very old building, it was all wood."
But their family bond remains. As does their loyalty to their extended family; the customers who have come through their shop door, the different generations from families they have watched grow up.
“The customers to me is a friend, not just customers,” Peter said.
“But the most important reason for me to close, is the health,” he said, gesturing to his older brother Theo, who quickly waved him off affectionately.
“Every day, fighting,” Theo joked, punching his fist through the air.
“He is joking,” Peter said.
“We get upset sometimes now, because he forgets to tell me something for the customers ... that sometimes makes me upset, but that's it. Never fighting.”
Each brother will take a machine “for those little alterations, I don't know, maybe I will still do something now and then,” Peter said and while they worry about being bored, with 21 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren between them, their family hold no illusions they'll run out of things to do.
But Monday may bring its own melancholy.
“This here, this was my home,”Michael said pointing to a picture of Kalymnos tacked to the back room.
“But it changed. I go for a holiday and I think, nice place to holiday, but not forever. Here, in Australia, this is my home.
“But everything changes. So many changes and I don't like it sometimes. But my family,” he added after a pause, “family is everything. When you have family, you have everything. And then you can face anything. Even change.”