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.
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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