Oxford MailA special honour for Excelsior Cafe owner (From Oxford Mail)

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A special honour for Excelsior Cafe owner

Oxford Mail: Andreas Koumi Andreas Koumi

Greasy spoon cafes do not often have the reputation for being a safe haven for those suffering with mental health problems.

But the owner of a small cafe in Cowley Road has received a certificate of honour from Oxford City Council for exactly that.

Andreas Koumi, 79, has been running the Excelsior Cafe for almost 50 years and was recognised for his contribution to Oxford alongside charity workers and volunteers on Monday night.

His customers said he deserved the award and described him as a kind-hearted man who treated everyone with the utmost respect.

Mr Koumi emigrated from Cyprus to London in 1954 to escape poverty and moved to Oxford two years later to work and complete a night course in book keeping.

He bought Excelsior with his brother and cousin in 1961.

He said: “I wanted people to consider the cafe as their home, where they could come and rest and not have anyone saying you have been here too long. I want people to come in every day and I want to know about their lives. Anyone would.”

But he added: “I am ready to give up Excelsior – I feel it in the mornings – but I will miss it. It has been my whole life.”

Mr Koumi, who has two children and four grandchildren, said he had been very pleased to have won the award and said he had not expected it.

Pamela Webber, 66, who nominated Mr Koumi for the award, said: “I used to look after a mental health patient and Excelsior was the only place he felt comfortable.

“Some people do not always welcome people who suffer from mental health issues but Andreas does, which helps with the recovery. ”

Customer Debbie Preece, 44, of Cowley Road, said: “Andreas is the kind of person that if you are upset he will talk to you and calm you down. He has created a community here and if it ever closes there will be nowhere else to go where people treat you with the respect Andreas does.”

Goldston Joseph, 48, of Cowley Road, said: “We are always welcomed in here and it is more homely than other cafes, where they are more about business.

“Andreas deserves the award because he is a kind-hearted man. If you are stuck he will help you.”

Lord Mayor of Oxford Elise Benjamin, who was one of the award’s judges, said: “What is unusual and special about Excelsior is that it is not just a local cafe, it is a haven for people who are in need.

“We know that there are a lot of people with mental health problems that spend a lot of time in Excelsior and care workers meet with their clients in there.

“Andreas lets them be there and helps them feel safe and secure. I do not know of any other places in Oxford like that.”

Gemma Humphrey, external relations manager at mental health charity Restore, said: “Excelsior serves our users, volunteers and staff.

“We find the atmosphere welcoming and inclusive – and we like the strong coffee.”

For a feature celebrating the other nine winners, see Saturday’s Oxford Mail.

Comments (5)

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11:12am Thu 17 May 12

Dilligaf2010 says...

Good for him, there used to be loads of welcoming places like The Excelsior, but sadly most are now all about footfall and over-priced beverages.
Good for him, there used to be loads of welcoming places like The Excelsior, but sadly most are now all about footfall and over-priced beverages. Dilligaf2010
  • Score: 0

3:23pm Thu 17 May 12

LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG says...

Dilligaf2010 wrote:
Good for him, there used to be loads of welcoming places like The Excelsior, but sadly most are now all about footfall and over-priced beverages.
Could do with his type, and cafe on Walton St, not all those overpriced poncy "food outlets" that have taken over.
[quote][p][bold]Dilligaf2010[/bold] wrote: Good for him, there used to be loads of welcoming places like The Excelsior, but sadly most are now all about footfall and over-priced beverages.[/p][/quote]Could do with his type, and cafe on Walton St, not all those overpriced poncy "food outlets" that have taken over. LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG
  • Score: 0

7:15pm Thu 17 May 12

Feelingsmatter says...

What lovely man; Margaret's (Slaymaker's), a small haberdashery shop in Steventon, did much the same job until the lovely Mrs. Slaymaker died two years ago. Nothing like a comfy seat, a cup of tea and a listening ear to help someone who is feeling down. Now we have to think about health & safety, equality law, rent, tax, and so many other pieces of red tape that people are reluctant to make the effort. Shame.
What lovely man; Margaret's (Slaymaker's), a small haberdashery shop in Steventon, did much the same job until the lovely Mrs. Slaymaker died two years ago. Nothing like a comfy seat, a cup of tea and a listening ear to help someone who is feeling down. Now we have to think about health & safety, equality law, rent, tax, and so many other pieces of red tape that people are reluctant to make the effort. Shame. Feelingsmatter
  • Score: 0

12:17pm Sat 19 May 12

bigchet says...

used to go in there when a teenager in the nineteen fifties,for it to have survived so long speaks volumes, moved away from ox long time ago but people say the coffee is the equal of anywhere in oxford. if he leaves will be missed by many.
used to go in there when a teenager in the nineteen fifties,for it to have survived so long speaks volumes, moved away from ox long time ago but people say the coffee is the equal of anywhere in oxford. if he leaves will be missed by many. bigchet
  • Score: 0

1:09pm Sat 19 May 12

Phian says...

I have fond memories of this Cafe from my days as a student at Cowley Rd Tech.
Good honest food and an interesting place to be, I occasionally call in when in the area. bigchet is right about the coffee.
I have fond memories of this Cafe from my days as a student at Cowley Rd Tech. Good honest food and an interesting place to be, I occasionally call in when in the area. bigchet is right about the coffee. Phian
  • Score: 0

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