January 27 - February 2, 2019: Issue 391



Fairfax Corporation. (1930). Shops including Repin's, Fashion Centre and Darrod's Frocks on Market Street, Sydney, ca. 1930 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-163006868
Back in 2012 George Repin shared an insight on Sargeant's Team Rooms and Street Photographers. Coincidentally the Sydney Museum is currently running an Exhibition called 'Street Photography of 1930s - 1950s' until Sunday 21 July 2019.

From the 1930s to the late 1950s commercial street photographers swarmed Sydney’s streets photographing everyday people in candid full-length portraits as they quickly passed by or stopped to pose. 

In the background of many street photos are glimpses of Sydney’s architecture, from still-recognisable locations to popular landmarks of the day. Many photos also show signs advertising businesses now long gone, including popular cafes like Repin’s and Sargents.- Museum of Sydney

The sepia and black and white images of smartly dressed men and women striding the streets of a Sydney from yesteryear are a stark contrast to the portraiture images of the Ballet Russes taken by the gentleman for whom Repin's Inns were named, Ivan Dmitrievitch Repin.

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

As Ivan's son George is having a respite from running his page at present, we'd like to sneak in a small insight into those 'Signs of the Times' the Sydney Museum's Street Photography exhibition allows us and where they may have appeared. 

This 1937 (Australian Depression) article gives an overview of where you may have enjoyed that better coffee and a pretty amazing and fast roll-out of Repin's Coffee Inns, considering the Repin family landed in Australia in 1925:


WHEN Ivan Repin gave himself a New Year present worth thousands of pounds, he proved that Australia is still the land of opportunity for the man with an idea, and the will to carry it out. 

Eleven years ago he came to Australia, broke. 

To-day he owns the social rendezvous of Sydney's smart young things for morning, afternoon or after-the-show coffee and " eats ." in addition to the five coffee shops that have taught Sydney in the last six years to drink and appreciate real coffee. 

Incidentally the romantic success of the house of Repin has proved again that individual effort spells success as opposed to Communism.

IVAN REPIN is a Russian. He came from a good family and after his education at the Mining Institute at St. Petersburg, he graduated as a mining engineer, and, in course of time, became the owner of a small silver and platinum mine at Novgorod, while his young brother, Peter, became a cadet at the Russian Military Academy. 

Then the Revolution came. Always a strict constitutionalist, Ivan decided that as the Russian people had the new form of Government he would give it a trial. Although he lost his mine he worked under Communist conditions for some years, but found such to be no good to him. 

Across Siberia 

With his wife, children, and Peter, who, of course, had lost his prospects with the revolution, he made his way across Siberia in the winter of 1925, and came via Japan to Australia, where ho settled in Sydney. At first he started out in his own game, mining, but the only work he could get was as a miner at Balmain colliery. 

With what little capital he had left he started a bus company, but, through no fault of his own, he lost control of the company, so he drove one of his own buses for a few months, but lost this job, too. 

Meanwhile Peter had got a Job as a bus conductor, and it was not long before his fair hair, good looks, and intriguing accent had made him the most interesting feature of the Bondi-Bellevue Hill-Railway bus run. 

Undismayed by his earlier failures, Ivan next bought a taxi-cab, and for three years he drove it round the city. These were not wasted years. He learnt from his fares that what Sydney needed was a place where decent coffee could be obtained under decent conditions and at a reasonable price. So he thought it out and saved his earnings until in 1930 he had enough money to open a little place in King Street opposite the Supreme Court. It was the first of the Repin shops, and there, with three assistants and his brother, Ivan worked from 9 a.m. until midnight, building up a business that in six years has become the biggest of its kind in the State. 

It was not long before the first expansion occurred. 

Dick Claplin, whose father at the time was Usher of the Black Rod, in the State Legislative Council, had returned from India and Ceylon where he had gained extensive experience in the tea and coffee trade, and, on his return to Australia, he had opened up a small shop next door to the old Tivoli Theatre. Because of his social connections, Dick's shop had become a rendezvous for the younger set. But seeking wider fields of activity, he decided to return to tea-tasting and blending, so he was willing to sell out. His shop, Repin's No. 2,  still remained the haunt of the sweet young things who thought that the coffee at the "Blue Shop" was "too divine, my dear," while legal men from the Courts found Repin's No. 1 shop a handy place for a "refresher" between appearances. 

So the business grew. Other shops were opened up — one in Market Street, one in Pitt Street. Another followed in Pitt Street, where the waitresses were dressed in Russian costume and a stringed trio provided music. 

The remodelling of Wally Weekes' corner involved the pulling down of the original Repin shop, so he acquired another property at 138 King Street, and a second one at 130 King Street, which is now the head office. 

Constant improvements and additions were made to each of the shops and, a few months ago, Ivan went on a world tour to study the latest methods of coffee roasting, blending, and preparation, and the most modern developments In the eating-house business. 

Ivan Repin - late 1930s. George Repin's photo

He signalised his return with the purchase of Quality Inn, the purchase price of which was in the vicinity of £12,000. Now he has a staff of about 150 with a weekly wages bill in the vicinity of £500, while his properties are worth many thousands of pounds. 

Australia has brought success to Ivan Repin, and he and his family have all become naturalised citizens of the country. With the exception of half a dozen or so, all of his staff are Australians. The exceptions are Russians whom he knew in the old days and would have since fallen on evil times but for him. 

Proudly he boasts, "Most of my coffee is Empire grown, from Kenya in Africa, Mysore in India, and Jamaica." 

His coffee is something more than a mere drink to him. It is a necessity, and the making of It a rite. So says Repin.

THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY (1937, January 2). Smith's Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 - 1950), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235894997 

'Quality Inn' subsequently became 'Repin's Quality Inn'. During the 1930's, just as the above article was being published, Repin's Inns were opened in George Street as well. The 'sweet young things' would be replaced in Repin Coffee Inns by members of what is called 'The Sydney Push' during the late 1940's and 1950's. 

Some examples of those 'improvements' show Mr. Repin actively supported and promoted many a local Artist - not just those who word prove to be great wordsmiths as part of the Sydney Push:

ARTISTIC DECORATION (1933, March 15). Construction and Real Estate Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1930 - 1938), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222910922

Mural in Repin's Coffee Bar by Australian Graphic Designer and Artist Douglas Annand, 1948 -  photographer Max Dupain, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

The above gives an insight into why Repin's Coffee Inns were an institution among many in Sydney and are fondly remembered still, the most recent reference to them being in the 2018 Australian made film 'Ladies in Black'.

The Sydney Museum is a cool oasis in the weather we have at present and for lovers of architecture, culture, street photography, and Repin's Coffee Inns there is the added bonus of their current Street Photography Exhibition - definite 'do yourself a favour' material!

The Museum of Sydney is at  the corner Phillip and Bridge Streets and openevery day from 10 am to 5pm. More details here.

To see a taste of the 'Repin Signs of those Times' the museum has on display, visit HERE

Thora nee (Smeal) nursing baby on vacation with husband Professor Gordon Greenwood, Sydney ca. 1941 - Courtesy State Library of QLD. This is a Repin's Coffee Inn in George street

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 Repin's In "Ladies In Black"  

Copyright George Repin 2019. All Rights Reserved.