Cyril Vicenc

Cyril Vicenc talks about his methods for attracting customers in the early days of his eponymously named delicatessen.

To get premises you had to have big money, or you had to be lucky, and one day I read in a paper that one particular lady in Hay Street won first prize in the lottery. And I came and I congratulated the lady and I said, “Gee, you’re lucky. I wish I could buy your store”. She said, “Maybe you will be able to buy it. Come back tomorrow. I’ll speak to my husband”. Fair enough. They sold me their space, with the key money, for two thousand pounds, which I never had. So I had a few friends and I somehow collected this two thousand pounds and gave it to her and I had an empty store and that was the beginning of Cyril’s delicatessen. And there was a store end of Hay Street, Pitt Street: a very small Czech man from Yugoslavia, and he was so popular with the newcomers, in food, he let ten people in, served them, while there was a big gathering outside, about fifty people waiting to get their turn. And I said to myself, “If he can make such a good business, I think I can ‘help’ him”. So around Hay Street people wanted to see something new and I gave them a better service. This guy was not cutting anything; it was “Just take it or leave it”, a bit arrogant, and I gave them a civilised service and people liked that and I was a success from the first day. I was fortunate enough to be able to communicate with all the newcomers which came here which couldn’t speak English. So I was speaking to them in Czech or in Polish or in Yugoslav, and some German, and I was immediately a popular person.

Richard Raxworthy