The inner-western Melbourne suburb of Footscray had a mixed 2016. The area’s beloved AFL team, the Western Bulldogs, won their first premiership in 62 years, but the area also lost one of its favourite food destinations, Olympic Doughnuts, shut down after nearly four decades in business.
Yesterday, the local council confirmed it would not reopen due to the poor health of Nick Tsiligiris, the octogenarian Greek immigrant who’d run the little caravan near Footscray railway station since 1979.
Just under a year ago, Olympic Nick, as he’s known, was involved in a serious car accident and hasn’t been able to return to his beloved stand since.
In October, rumours began to circulate of much-loved legend’s demise, leading to an outpouring of grief on social media, but it was untrue and “Olympic Nick” lives on, albeit not fit enough to return to work at age 81.
Passing on a statement from his family, City of Maribyrnong council said “the difficult decision to close the Footscray institution was recently made by the Tsiligiris family in light of Nick’s ongoing health issues”.
His daughter, Gina Hasapis, said: “On behalf of Nick and his family I would like to thank everyone for their love and tremendous support. It means the world to Nick and to us to see how much everyone loved him and his delicious doughnuts. I would like to let everyone know that Nick in turn loved ‘his community’, his customers and Footscray. You were all his family and his home away from home. Thank you.”
If you’re not part of the city, it may be hard to grasp how much of an institution Olympic Doughnuts has been, but if you’re from Sydney, think of it like Harry’s Cafe de Wheels in Woolloomooloo, or the old red Brodburger caravan in Canberra.
Tsiligiris, his 80 cent doughnuts and the little dolphin used to squirt jam into them were an essential part of Footscray’s social fabric, with its rich migrant heritage. He was still there daily, aged 80, handing out fresh, hot jam-filled donuts in white paper bags in 2014, under the pedestrian footbridge under the train station, when its redevelopment was announced. Community lobbying saw the council create a new purpose-built outlet to replace his tatty old van, which went off the Melbourne Museum for an exhibition.
In 2015, aspiring documentary makers Rachel Morssink and Ian Tran launched a crowdfunding campaign to make “Olympic Nick: A Donutumentary” raising nearly $9000 on an $8000 target to create a short film that screens on ABC2 this Friday, January 20, at 10.10pm. It also features in the upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival .
Here’s a sneak peek at the film:
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