Elwood's Jerry's Milk Bar closed quietly during Melbourne's second lockdown, sparking fears in the tight-knit bayside community that this iconic cafe might be lost forever.
Happily, that was not to be. Nick Forge and Oliver Gualano, owners of backstreet Kew cafe Kupid Espresso, and their friend Jordy Catalano (Elwood local, owner of property platform Apartments & Developments, and son of publisher Antony Catalano) have smartened it up and reopened it.
The two-storey corner Edwardian building was run as a grocer and then a milk bar by Gerasimos "Jerry" Pantelios between 1964 and his death in 1997. The building remains in the Pantelios family and has operated as a cafe since then.
The previous tenant removed the lolly counter and other vintage elements that had given the cafe much of its character. The new owners plan to restore what they can and are in the process of framing old pictures.
As they renovated, concerned and curious locals made sure they knew how important it was to the neighbourhood. "I was told it was an icon but I didn't realise how much history it had," says Forge. "Since we opened in mid-March, it's been jamming."
The launch menu is stage one: eggs and extras, tacos and poke bowls, pides and toasties, with serious attention to dietary requirements.
Plans include renovating the courtyard and installing a playground, amping up the lunch offering, doing pizza and getting a liquor licence. There's also a notion to revive Jerry Pantelios' other career as an oyster vendor, restoring his old oyster van and making Jerry's a shuck stop as well as a coffee spot.
Open daily 7am-3.30pm at 345 Barkly Street, Elwood, 0468 311 680.