Many of Mick’s Nuts’ regular customers accompanied their mums as children to the ‘standing room only’ shop on the corner of Hardgrave Road and Vulture Street. At Mick’s they got an early taste for Cocoanut Ice and olives, and have been coming back ever since.
Very little has changed since Mick Kallis first opened his wholesale-retail shop in 1973. Coming from the Greek island of Rhodes, Mick started a traditional deli, which slowly morphed into a specialty nut shop, where bulk nuts, seeds and legumes are served by metal scoop and paid for by weight. Mick has re-created a European village style atmosphere, with its wooden floors, hand-drawn signs and old-fashioned family service provided by his wife, Maria and sons, Bill and Chris.
Even in the age of pre-packaged goods from vast supermarket chains, Mick’s Nuts remains a steadfast survivor, with many customers spilling out along down the street on Saturday morning, waiting to buy their nuts and join the family banter. Mick believes his business secret is simple, “We do good business because it is fresh all the time. You know we have good customers from everywhere.”
To prove his point, Mick pulls out a small yellow newspaper article dated May 1988. The clipping records the time a black chauffeur-driven limousine arrived at the shop and two English women bought many bags of produce to take back to the Duke and Duchess of Kent in the UK. “Even back then they had heard about us over there,” said Mick. Locals also frequent Mick’s. Gillian Quinn has been coming to Mick’s for five years. “She comes every time we are having a party,” her daughter Sarah says.
Mick’s biggest sellers are macadamia and cashew nuts. There is also a high demand for fresh muesli. Maria’s homemade taramasalata dip is a favourite, as are the olives, prepared every day in olive oil with plain salt or chilli. Gluten free and organic products are staple lines, while specialities like dried kori, white figs from Greece, are on the shelves when available. The women at Mick’s are happy to share their recipe secrets, cooking tips and serving ideas with all who ask.
In January this year, the shop was emptied in preparation for the recent flood. In 1974, the water rose a third of the way up Vulture Street and reached their store room. This time the water did not rise as predicted but Mick’s was eight days without power. Opening the shop was a priority, even though some family members were still cleaning up at their homes. “There weren’t many customers around, but we felt it was important to get the doors open as soon as possible to give people a sense of normality and a place to come to talk about what had just happened,” Maria says. “In this way our customers are like part of our family to us.”
Words by Maria Ceresa | Images by Patrick Sherlock