December 2 - 8, 2018: Issue 386



Ivan Repin - late 1930s.

In Bruce Beresford’s motion picture Ladies in Black - his adaptation of Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black - there is a brief scene in a coffee shop. The coffee shop, which is named in the novel, is identified in the movie as Repin’s by a menu on the table bearing a Repin’s logo and by the name on cups held by actors in the scene.

In preparing for this scene the producers sought advice whether any Repin’s premises still existed or whether another coffee shop might be a suitable setting to replicate Repin’s. The Paragon at Katoomba, although closed for business, remained undemolished and was used for the scene.

The name Repin’s will be remembered by middle-aged or older residents of Sydney, but probably means nothing to younger generations.

Repin's original Trade Mark - 1930s.

An early Repin's shopfront with coffee roasting machine in the window.

In 1959, the time in which the movie is set, the Repin’s Coffee Inns were a feature of the Central Business District of Sydney with Branches in George Street near Wynyard, Pitt Street near the GPO, King Street (three shops) and Market Street opposite David Jones.  Goode’s the fictional Department Store of the novel, is obviously based on David Jones and scenes in the movie were shot for a day on the unrenovated seventh floor of the real David Jones, turning it into the ground floor of Goode’s.

Under awning sign outside each shop. Street photographer's picture of a mother and daughter in Market Street, City

The business was established by Ivan Repin, a refugee from the Soviet Union who arrived in Sydney with his family in 1925.  As he could not use his Russian professional qualifications as a mining engineer in Australia he worked in various jobs including as a miner in the colliery at Balmain and driving buses and taxis.  Things changed after he opened a small café with a very limited menu at the top of King Street opposite the Supreme Court.  He served a good cup of coffee - unlike the atrocious coffee then generally available.  His wife made uniforms and his daughters, when school permitted, served in the shop.  Despite the economic depression the business was an immediate success.  Ivan Repin developed a distinctive coffee blend –he called American Blend - which became very popular when served in the shops – so much so that a demand from customers wanting to buy it to brew coffee at home resulted in an expansion of the business into the retailing of coffee.  A wide range of single origin coffees and distinctive blends was added to the retail offering of American Blend. By the start of World War II Repin’s had grown to seven branches.

Counter at Repin's 175 Pitt Street. Set up for retailing coffee in shop between Martin Place and King Street.

Ivan Repin died in 1949 but the business continued in the hands of his brother Peter and son George.  After the end of World War II the latter embarked on a programme of renovations and modernisation including the establishment of the first modern espresso coffee lounge in Kings Cross, the “MoKa”, in 1955.

MoKa View looking into the shop.

However, with the extensive rebuilding of Sydney from the 1960s the rentals of premises on ground floor street frontages became too expensive for businesses such as Repin’s to survive. They and other well-established restaurant chains, such as Cahills and Sargents, also disappeared.  City workers who previously brought sandwiches from home for their lunch or ate at the various café and restaurant chains now found food halls in the new commercial building developments to meet their needs – fast, relatively cheap food in an ever increasing variety. 

A new era had arrived.

30 November, 2018 

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants  Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers  The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia  Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots  Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images  Gardens  Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  Collonges-La-Rouge  Gingerbread Houses   Cape Sounion   Delos  Wroclaw  Colonial Williamsburg  Gruyères   Strasbourg  Coventry Cathedral  The Roman Theatre at Aspendos  Turkish Carpets The Duomo of Orvieto  Rovinj  The City Walls of Dubrovnik Monaco - Snapshots   Bonifacio, Corsica  Autumn in New England USA  The Great Ocean Road  Pompeii  Didyma  Lawrence Hargrave 1850-1915  The Corinth Canal  Malta  Snapshots of Amsterdam Café Central - Vienna  The Forbidden City - Beijing, China  A Ride on the Jungfrau Railway - 1954   Snapshots in the Highlands of Scotland 1954  Must See Sights in Paris - 1954  Corfu  Reflections On the Nineteen Thirties The Gold Souk in Dubai  Stromboli   Ha Long Bay - Vietnam  Lake Argyle The Bungle Bungle Range Langgi Inlet, W.A.  White Cliffs, NSW - 1990  Sturt National Park - May, 1990 A Few Statues and Water Spouts  The Dodecanese Archipelago  Rhodes  Lindos The Church on Spilled Blood - 2005 Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad 

Copyright George Repin 2018. All Rights Reserved.