Closing time for cafe after 53 years of froth and stir

Andreas Kuomi, who is closing The Excelsior cafe in Oxford’s Cowley Road, says that “all human life is here”. Picture: OX50315 Damian Halliwell

Andreas Kuomi, who is closing The Excelsior cafe in Oxford’s Cowley Road, says that “all human life is here”. Picture: OX50315 Damian Halliwell Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Rose Hill, Iffley and Littlemore. Please call me on (01865) 425422

FOR 53 years Andreas Kuomi has been serving the people of Oxford everything from English breakfasts to his trademark Greek coffee.

But this week he will close the doors of The Excelsior, Cowley Road, for the last time after finally deciding to retire at the age of 80.

After moving to Britain from Cyprus in 1954 in the hope of a better life, Mr Kuomi moved to Oxford two years later and bought The Excelsior in 1961.

Oxford Mail:

The Excelsior on Cowley Road

More than half a century on, he said it was time to call it a day.

He said: “I have decided that the time has come to close. I have enjoyed it but it can’t be helped. You can’t stop the march of time.

“Back in 1961 I decided I wanted to set up my own business so I thought I would give a cafe a go and see how it went. It must have gone pretty well because we’re still here today. I will definitely miss it, I have made lots of friends here who I will miss quite a lot, but the time is right to move on.”

Mr Kuomi lives in Salegate Lane, Cowley, with his wife Sophia, and has seen his son Evripides, 42, and daughter Kalypso, 39, grow up in Oxford.

He said: “Cowley Road has changed a lot since I first came here. It wasn’t as busy in those days and there weren’t as many shops.

“So many have come and gone in my time here and I have seen so many generations and nationalities pass through.

“My job is a steady one without much excitement but sometimes you see a fight or an accident outside. In fact I think you see all human life on Cowley Road.”

Pamela Webber, 69, who nominated Mr Kuomi for a community award he won in 2012, said she would be sad to see The Excelsior go.

She said: “I looked after someone who suffered from mental illness and it was the only place he felt comfortable, the only place he felt accepted. It has always been a friendly, welcoming place to be.

“They would always be giving someone a free cup of tea or letting them pay later if they were short of money.

“Mr Kuomi is one of those people who is more friendly than he needs to be. You just don’t get that sort of person in Oxford today with all the big chain coffee shops.

“I nominated him for the community award but I really think he should have got an MBE.”

Mr Kuomi has not yet decided what date the cafe will close, and he predicted it might not spell the end for ever.

He said: “The cafe was around before I took it over in 1961 and although it will close for the time being, maybe it will open again someday if someone else makes the same choice I did 53 years ago.”

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Comments (7)

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10:49am Tue 29 Jul 14

WestQuarterJ says...

Undoubtedly a well-deserved retirement, but hopefully it will be able to stary open in someone else's stewardship. Between this and the St Giles Cafe turning into a gastro-hipster joint, it's getting difficult to find a good old fashioned fry-up in Oxford. Even BHS is on the way out!

If it were a community pub at risk of closure after more than half a century people would be up in arms getting it listed, protected, and what have you. Let's be clear, there is a demand for this type of place, please let's not have another bookie, off licence, or mobile phone shop - there are already plenty!
Undoubtedly a well-deserved retirement, but hopefully it will be able to stary open in someone else's stewardship. Between this and the St Giles Cafe turning into a gastro-hipster joint, it's getting difficult to find a good old fashioned fry-up in Oxford. Even BHS is on the way out! If it were a community pub at risk of closure after more than half a century people would be up in arms getting it listed, protected, and what have you. Let's be clear, there is a demand for this type of place, please let's not have another bookie, off licence, or mobile phone shop - there are already plenty! WestQuarterJ
  • Score: 12

1:54pm Tue 29 Jul 14

oxfordgirl82 says...

Best scrambled eggs on toast I've ever tasted except my nans :/
Best scrambled eggs on toast I've ever tasted except my nans :/ oxfordgirl82
  • Score: 5

12:16am Wed 30 Jul 14

boagongrui says...

Back in the 60's we used to put the cat out
at night
I see it is still there
Back in the 60's we used to put the cat out at night I see it is still there boagongrui
  • Score: -1

4:09pm Wed 30 Jul 14

M1keez says...

Sad , some very happy memories of times spent sipping Coffee and chatting with Ann, now my Mother in Law .
Sad , some very happy memories of times spent sipping Coffee and chatting with Ann, now my Mother in Law . M1keez
  • Score: 1

8:45pm Wed 30 Jul 14

Oxon born & bred says...

Remember it well, Grandma would take me for a treat - lemonade and cake after visiting Grandad in Cowley Road hospital - 1967-8.
Remember it well, Grandma would take me for a treat - lemonade and cake after visiting Grandad in Cowley Road hospital - 1967-8. Oxon born & bred
  • Score: 0

5:11pm Thu 31 Jul 14

rowdy says...

Yes , visited it a lot in my teens after youth club in Marston St - especially Carol the waitress and her daughter. Even Rick Stein mentioned he frequented it in his teens ........!!!!
Yes , visited it a lot in my teens after youth club in Marston St - especially Carol the waitress and her daughter. Even Rick Stein mentioned he frequented it in his teens ........!!!! rowdy
  • Score: 0

10:32pm Thu 31 Jul 14

H.J.Harris says...

The Excelsior will be missed by many. I frequented it when a student at Cowley Rd Tech and have visited occasionally when in the neighbourhood. It would be nice if someone were able to take it over and run it in a similar manner but these days, that regrettably doesn't seem likely.
The Excelsior will be missed by many. I frequented it when a student at Cowley Rd Tech and have visited occasionally when in the neighbourhood. It would be nice if someone were able to take it over and run it in a similar manner but these days, that regrettably doesn't seem likely. H.J.Harris
  • Score: 0

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