Manuel Xyrakis, at the age of eight, received a toy cash register for Christmas. His parents, Nick and Alice, let him set it up at their Ainslie store’s lolly counter, allowing him to keep the money he made that day. In 1963, the family purchased the Paragon Supermarket/Milk Bar and expanded their product range to compete with larger supermarkets.
Now, after 60 years, the Ainslie IGA has become a formidable competitor to chain supermarkets. The store features a deli section offering a variety of meals, salads, soups, and dips, all made on-site. They also have an in-house butchery that produces sausages, marinates lamb legs, and slices wagyu steak. The store stocks an extensive range of groceries, prioritizing local producers like Three Mills Bakery, Lonsdale Street Roasters, and Ramen Daddy. Moreover, the store’s cheese wall is worth mentioning.
However, the Xyrakis family’s focus has always been on more than just the products they stock. They value community and treat customers like family. Manuel recalls customers who visited as children and now bring their own kids. During lockdown, the store supported elderly customers by providing essential supplies and even delivering them. The store now employs second- and third-generation workers at the checkouts.
Manuel and his sisters Irene and Yvonne have fond memories of growing up around the Ainslie shops, feeling safe and supported by the community. Their father, Nick, immigrated from Greece in 1948, initially working in a café before settling in Wagga. Eventually, the family moved to Canberra in 1960, where they acquired the Ainslie store in 1963.
Despite encountering challenges, such as going into receivership in 1978 and battling with planning authorities to maintain the condition of the Ainslie shopping precinct, the family has persevered. Irene’s sons, Keith, Nicholas, and Dimitri, are part of the succession plan. Keith manages Ainslie Cellars next door, which was established when the liquor section was separated from the main supermarket in 2012. The decision to fill the vacant space with a cheese selection turned out to be a successful move, resulting in the renowned “Great Cheese Wall of Ainslie.”
The family attributes the success of their business to the determination and vision of their parents. Manuel still vividly remembers his father’s strong work ethic and the moment he urged him to start working the day after high school. Alice, who passed away in 2021, was regarded as the business’s intellectual force, leveraging her teaching background and linguistic skills.
The Xyrakis family cherishes the legacy built by their parents, and they continue to consider Ainslie IGA their home.