Alex Marlos is fondly remembered as the congenial maitre d' who made everyone feel special at The Charcoal Taven and the Beach House Restaurant.
The Marlos family now run Sublime Point Cafe which has been a popular stop for countless visitors to the region as well as a wedding and function venue.
Mr Marlos is still renowned for his ability to make people feel welcome but COVID-19 has brought that to a stop.
He does not know whether the business will survive coronavirus but his family has made 5000 meals to ensure the homeless and those in social isolation do.
As they negotiate rent relief from Wollongong City Council the family has provided meals to hundreds of people with the help of food donations from supermarkets and local businesses.
When COVID-19 restrictions forced Sublime Point Cafe to temporarily close the doors to diners its location meant takeaways would be a challenge in such an isolated location.
With visitor numbers to the region falling, weddings and functions being cancelled, walking track closures and social distancing rules preventing groups of people gathering together at the scenic location, food and coffee sales plummeted.
So the Marlos family decided to make better use of the commercial kitchen and cook food for the homeless.
On Thursday morning Alex, Alexia, Yianni and Tia Marlos prepared 400 meals to help those who might otherwise go without at Easter. On Good Friday they were back doing it again.
"I have always done some work for the homeless," Mr Marlos said.
"Last year we fed homeless and needy people on Christmas Eve. We organised four buses from council that brought them all to Sublime Point and we fed them a three course Christmas dinner".
Mr Marlos said the cafe could not survive on five takeaway coffee orders a day.
After the family started preparing meals for the homeless they started getting calls from people who had suddenly found themselves out of work and or in social isolation.
With the help of some volunteers they are now also delivering food to those people.
Meals for the homeless are taken to Darcy House at Port Kembla as well as the Wollongong Homeless Hub.
Each day starts with Mr Marlos visiting supermarkets and other businesses to pick up excess food from the day before that was still good but would otherwise go to landfill.
"We work with it quickly. It is at the point where it is still very nice but will soon go out of date," Mr Marlos said.
"It has taken two weeks of negotiations with Aldi, Woolworths and a variety of different stores locally for them to allow me to come and get the food each morning.
"I am second to OzHarvest who we are now helping because 90 per cent of volunteers to such charities are over the age of 70.
"Local suppliers donating food such as PFD, Bellforce Meats, Woolworths Unanderra, Country Grocer and Novotel have been amazing".
Chef Daniel Gibson accepted Mr Marlos's offer to staff to stay on as part of the Federal Government's JobKeeper initiative and is loving the work helping so many people at such a difficult and uncertain time.
One of the Marlos family's former chefs Scott Schofield has also been helping out as a volunteer.
"My family spends around three hours collecting the food and cutting it up. Then our chef and I cook it all," Mr Marlos said,
"We then deliver it for distribution from Darcy House and the Homeless Hub. Dianne at Darcy House is like everyone's warm cuddly mum. She has a heart of gold".
On Good Friday the Marlos family prepared salmon salads, potato salads and a Greek pasta bake.
"As of today we have served over 5000 meals to the homeless and people stuck at home in social isolation," Mr Marlos said.
The family does not think the business can survive the next six months without some rent and insurance cost relief from council.
But talks are promising and they are hoping to open to the public again when the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Mr Marlos is considered a bit of an institution in Wollongong dining circles.
And is fondly remembered as the congenial restaurant manager who greeted everyone with such a warm friendly smile in the halcyon days of The Charcoal Tavern and Beach House Restaurant..
"It is amazing how many people still come up to me and mention those two restaurants," he said.
"The Charcoal Tavern and I go back 35 years".
With rumours that The Charcoal Tavern may return to Wollongong with the same traditional romantic settings and friendly service near the original site many are hoping that Mr Marlos may one day be convinced to return to that role as the maitre d' who makes everyone feel special.
He won't rule that out. But he is also renowned for the same kind of service at Sublime Point Cafe and its function room. And he wants the family run business to continue operating beyond the coronavirus crisis.
"I still work on the fact that it is so easy to please people and make their day," he said..
"It is such a joy to do and I love employing people who also love looking after people".
The Illawarra Mercury has launched a Taking Care of Business campaign.
Each day we will highlight a local business who is adapting or evolving to be able to keep operating under these trying times.
If you know of a business adapting, please send us an email titled Taking Care of Business to email@example.com.
We have also put a call out and will run a list of cafes, restaurants and clubs who are offering takeaway or delivery on our Facebook page. If you know of an outlet now offering home delivery or takeaway, please let us know and add it to the list.
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