Stories of Early Migrants who tantalised our palates

The FOOD BUSINESS was an exhibition about Wollongong’s own ‘foody’ pioneers. The exhibition showcased the individuals that brought new flavours and colours to the palates of the people in the emerging city that we know and love today.  Many people believe that Wollongong became a multicultural city after WWII but in fact there were many people from diverse cultural backgrounds who lived in and influenced the culture of Wollongong long before the second world war.  Many of these businesses became institutions in themselves and the foundations they laid helped to generate other commercial ventures in food production and culinary culture in the region.

They deserve to be celebrated and congratulated for their vision and hard work in bringing a kaleidoscope of flavours to our homes.

The research for the exhibition was conducted by Zofia laba who is a local historian and a member of the Migration Heritage Project committee.  Zofia’s interest in migrant history is drawn to the earlier migrant pioneers and her work undertaken in the MHP’s 2021 research project ‘Identifying early Illawarra pioneers from diverse cultural backgrounds from settlement to the 1940s’ was a study of those early migrants.

The exhibition was designed by Gregor Cullen who is also on the MHP committee and who had at the time 35 years of experience as a design and art educator in the Graphic Design program at the University of Wollongong.

The MHP committee developed and edited the exhibition and were joint-curators of the exhibition.

The exhibition provided a link to the current interest in food and cooking, presenting opportunities to expand audiences by making history relevant and engaging.

The exhibition was launched at the Wollongong City Library on Saturday 24 June 2017.   It then toured throughout Wollongong and included the Wollongong Local Studies Library and the Gateway Shopping Centre and as well as other places like other Curio Outdoor Gallery in Church Street Wollongong.

The exhibition focused on eight merchants from seven different migrant backgrounds who owned businesses in Wollongong prior to World War 2:

Phineas Beatus (Poland) 1854-1893, General Store, Unanderra and Wollongong

Conrad Heininger (Germany) 1862-1888, Farmer and Butcher, Dapto

Joe Puglisi (Italy) 1920-1936, Fish Monger, Wollongong

Charlie Ameera Box (India) 1920-1946, General Store, Albion Park

Mario Borgo (Italy) 1920-1955, Wine and Spirit Merchant, Wollongong

Joe Wah Gow (China) 1920-1955, Grocer and Draper Merchant, Wollongong

Tambakis Brothers (Greece) 1933-1969, Silver Bell Cafe, Wollongong

Evelthon Nicola Imisides (Cyprus) 1936-1950s, Fish Shop & Oyster Supplier, Wollongong and Warrawong

Click the image below to view a slideshow of images from the exhibition