From corner café to brunch institution: the Argo story

It’s not hard to judge the success of Daniel Milky’s hugely popular Argo on the Parade by seeing the lineup of eager smashed avocado enthusiasts snaked out the door.

Same goes for Victoria Square’s Argo on the Square, a weekday hotspot crawling with diners wanting their quinoa or falafel fix.

Argo and Co owner Daniel says his family’s cafés may have served Hollywood royalty including Hilary Swank and Adelaide’s own Teresa Palmer, but it’s the everyday people of SA who really spark his interest when placing their coffee orders.

Argo and Co owner Daniel Milky is at home behind the coffee machine.

“People come into the shop and talk about all sorts of things, they might be having a problem or something that’s really working for them and I love being in that position, connecting with people,” he says.

“Once you get involved and start mingling, people genuinely care about you.”

Both Argo cafés fall under Daniel and his family’s business Argo and Co, which also includes Nev’s Supa Deli at St Agnes, specialty coffee roaster Monastery Coffee and Juice Bureau, also on The Parade.

Daniel is also a partner in barbershop The Fellow Barber, and is an online coach and co-founder of The Business Therapist of Evolve East End co-working venue.

Overall, Argo and Co employs about 130 South Australians.


It’s a family affair, with the Milky clan – of Lebanese heritage – all involved in the business “in some way or another”.

Daniel grew up with six sisters and one brother and spent most of his childhood running around the family’s delis and snack bars.

“Anyone who is in business knows how incredibly difficult it is to run a business with family, they’re your biggest asset and your biggest liability at the same time,” he says.

“I can’t do what I do without my family because at the end of the day if something needs to be done I can trust that it’s going to happen and there’s no second guessing.”

The Argo phenomenon began in 2010 shortly after Argo on the Parade opened.


Argo Delicatessen has existed in its place for decades, with the Milky family involved in the popular deli in years gone by.

Daniel had achieved a degree in health sciences and a Masters in accounting, but upon finding out the old Argo deli was up for sale once more, he made an offer and signed a deal within hours.

“It was one of those things that happened, it wasn’t a conscious thought that occurred,” he says.

“Going through all my university education was a lot of work and then saying I’m going to go back to hospitality, it was like five or six years of uni going down the drain.”

The career change paid off, as the Norwood café quickly built a loyal following of coffee lovers and health conscious diners, sparking the need for another Argo in Victoria Square.


Now there’s rarely a time during the day when the coffee machine isn’t grinding or the smoothie blender not roaring.

Like most South Australians who are behind small to medium enterprises, Daniel has always had his finger on the political pulse.

Daniel describes the new Liberal Government’s proposed payroll tax cut for small businesses as a “boost of confidence”.

Under the plan, the payroll tax threshold would be lifted from $600,000 to $1.5m.

“I think we’re (currently) paying around $80,000–$90,000 a year in payroll tax,” Daniel says.

“It affects small business in a huge way, because that’s money that we cannot afford to go and invest in new equipment, new staff or expansions because you have to account for this deficit.”


Further growth is on the horizon for Argo and Co, with aspirations for an Argo Wholefoods store to launch this year, a few doors up from Argo on the Parade.

The smaller café will aim to provide healthy and reasonably priced meals for families.

Daniel is also working on an Argo gym concept, allowing fitness gurus a chance to enjoy healthy fare before or after their workouts.

The concept will launch in September or October in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

“We pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve in what’s offered in this space, especially this healthy eating, breakfast and brunch space, and not just offering the same old,” Daniel says.

“If you want to find something a bit different, you’re more likely to find it with us.”

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New face at the helm of Adelaide’s historic Popeye

Adelaide’s renowned Popeye river cruise business is taking a new lease on life.

The Popeye, which has entertained thousands of locals, tourists and even royalty over the past 83 years, is being handed to the next generation.

Owner Tony Shuman has owned The Popeye since 2011 and is now handing operations to his daughter Bianca, 23, who is injecting “refreshed energy” into the business as its new managing director.

The Popeye managing director Bianca Shuman unveils the brand’s new logo.

“Bianca is the new generation, she has new and hip ideas, a fresh feel and I can’t compete with that,” says Tony.

“It’s her turn, she’s got the smarts.”

The Popeye fleet includes three boats that take passengers along the River Torrens between Elder Park and Adelaide Zoo, and has long been considered a treasured family outing for many South Australians.

The boats also host functions, parties and high teas put on by fellow SA business, Lady Green’s High Tea.

Bianca says she hopes to introduce new stops along the river, including near the weir and Adelaide Oval to make the most of crowds attending AFL games and major concerts.

A stop is also in the works at The Popeye shed and Lounders Boatshed Café near Victoria Drive.

Approval is being sought for a permanent liquor licence while an online booking system has also been introduced.

Tony Shuman, left, has owned the small business since 2011 but plans to head into retirement.

A new logo and branding concept was inspired by the “art deco” style of the 1930s, when The Popeye was launched in Adelaide.

“The whole feeling with the new logo was keeping it modern but also going back to the start in the 1930s,” Bianca says.

“We would like to have that reflected in the style of our staff uniforms as well. To dress up a bit would be nice.”

Bianca says that while The Popeye has become an Adelaide icon, she wants to see more people on board.

“The Popeye, it’s very Adelaide and people almost don’t notice it because they’re so used to it going past every day. It would be great to get more people on,” she says.

“It’s about half tourists, half locals on board at the moment. During school holidays there’s a lot of kids and young families, and grandparents taking grandkids to the zoo.”

Zoos SA CEO and I Choose SA ambassador Elaine Bensted, left, with Bianca Shuman and her mother Lidija.

Tony Shuman and his wife Lidija have also run the paddle boats (small watercraft propelled by foot pedals) along the river since 1991.

He says past customers have included Madonna, Michael Bublé, English comedian Russell Brand and international tennis champions.

Over the years Tony says he has faced many business challenges as new infrastructure around the riverbank precinct takes shape.

However, he says the CBD’s growing population means more people are out and about.

“There are more people living in the city, the city itself has had real population growth over the last 20 years,” Tony says.

“It’s more of a university city as well – younger people out there doing things.”

The Popeye cruises along the river in March 1954. PHOTO: State Library of SA, B 74433/78.

Popeye 1 was launched on the River Torrens in 1935 by Gordon Watts.

Popeye 2 came along in 1948 and three new jarrah hulled boats were introduced some time later, taking the fleet to a total of five.

Keith Altman took over the business in 1962 and also introduced the paddle boats to the river.

Popeye 5 hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip during their visit to Adelaide in 1977. PHOTO:

In March 1977, The Popeye had a brush with royalty when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a trip during a visit to Adelaide.

In 1982 the wooden boats were replaced with three new fibreglass models and officially launched by then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

The Popeye, which was officially declared an official State Heritage Icon in 2011, employs 14 people.

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No small success for MiniJumbuk

Naracoorte wool-product business MiniJumbuk’s managing director Darren Turner can’t seem to ever shake off his love for the Limestone Coast.

Growing up in the state’s south east, by his early 20s Darren landed a job as a sales representative for the fledgling MiniJumbuk business. Almost four decades later and he’s still there.

Darren is one of the faces that has helped lead the proudly South Australian company to becoming the country’s biggest manufacturer of woollen products, and one of Naracoorte’s biggest private employers.

“I’m very proud to have created a brand that has built on its reputation of quality,” he says.

“Being part of the MiniJumbuk story is something to be really proud of.”

Darren is Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA for Industry ambassador for the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) sector.

With a workforce of about 70 people across both its Naracoorte factory and a facility in Adelaide, MiniJumbuk is one of SA’s strongest examples of a long-standing and successful SME.

Turning over $30m a year, its woollen blankets, quilts, pillows and other bedding have been keeping Australians warm for years.

MiniJumbuk’s managing director Darren Turner has been with the company for 35 years, driving it into a high-tech textile manufacturing future.

The high-quality, pure Australian wool is sourced from farms locally and interstate, while entire manufacturing processes are undertaken in SA.

It’s a unique success story considering the decline of Australia’s textile manufacturing industry over the years … so how did MiniJumbuk do it?

“In SA you do have an opportunity to stand out a bit more,” Darren says.

“I find that when you’re a bit smaller or you have the odds against you a little bit you have to work harder, think harder, be smarter and you have to work out ways of overcoming challenge.

“I think that makes a better business because it challenges you more and you get better outcomes. If it’s all too easy and you’re not being challenged, then you don’t improve.”

While MiniJumbuk hasn’t been without its challenges – such as the competition from cheaper Asian imports – its key to success has been upholding its levels of quality and authenticity.

“You either build something on price or you build it on quality and in order to stand out you need to stand for something,” Darren says.

“So we put a peg in the ground and we stood for high quality and best in class in terms of our product.”

Shearer Don Wray bought MiniJumbuk in 1975, making the company’s first woollen quilt.

Four years later and the business had secured a four-year contract with the Onkaparinga Woollen Mills making woollen quilts while continuing to handcraft woolly sheep souvenirs for tourists.

Darren says Naracoorte is a small, yet entrepreneurial country town.

By the mid ’80s the company was making its own brand of woollen mattress underlays, and before long was “doubling and quadrupling its turnover on an annual basis”.

In the late ’80s/early ’90s it wasn’t unusual to spot live rams being paraded through department stores, as MiniJumbuk spread the wool story,  its authenticity message and firmly cemented itself in Australia’s $3 billion wool industry.

Not long after joining MiniJumbuk, Darren bought a 20% share in the business before working his way up to general manager in 1996.

He has driven the company’s investment in high-tech manufacturing equipment and processes, including MiniJumbuk’s Airlight Technology.

“It’s a way of making the quilt lighter, but warmer,” Darren says.

“Cheaper quilts will feel quite heavy and will pack down and feel like a blanket after years of use, whereas ours will be light and fluffy.

“It’s unique to MiniJumbuk, no one else is doing it.”

In 2015/16 Darren travelled overseas with the support of the Industry Leaders Fund to attend the Global CEO course which he says led to a “significant improvement in the business”.

More than 80% of MiniJumbuk’s products are sold domestically, while a little under 20% is exported, mostly to China.

Darren says he is expecting exports to grow in the next three to five years to make up as much as 50% of the business.

But despite its worldly endeavours, MiniJumbuk’s commitment remains to the people in the South East community, with more than 60% of its annual turnover coming out of the Naracoorte plant.

“Naracoorte is a positive town, it’s quite entrepreneurial and offers a lot to business people,” Darren says.

“It’s right in the heart of the Limestone Coast and so it’s a good spot to raise a family. Naracoorte is the place I cherish and call home.”

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Wallis Cinemas still making magic after all these years

Wallis Cinemas boss Lorna Wallis’ first date with the man who would later become her husband was sitting in the rows of the Capri Theatre, in Adelaide’s inner northern suburbs.

It was the late 1950s, a time when going to the movies was worth getting dressed up for, “gloves and all”.

Lorna, 79, can’t remember the name of the film they watched, but recalls the moment she dropped a box of chocolates Bob had bought her all over the floor.

“Buying a box of chocolates in those days was very expensive and I’d just opened them when I went to get one out and dropped the lot,” she says.

“Bob was very cross. I miss him terribly, it’s been 11 years.”

Wallis Theatres founder Hughie Wallis, second from left.

More than half a century later and Lorna is still walking the foyers of South Australian cinemas, carrying on the legacy of her late husband and the state’s movie man, Bob Wallis.

Bob was the son of Wallis Theatres founder Hughie Wallis, who opened the state’s first drive-in theatre, the Blue Line at West Beach, in 1954.

The opening of the Blue Line theatre sparked the explosion of drive-in culture in SA: teenagers piled into FJ Holdens, speakers hanging from car windows and kids munching on Chiko Rolls in the back seat.

In 1955, the Mainline Drive-In at Gepps Cross opened and is now the only one left in Adelaide.

Hughie died in 1994 aged 84, leaving Bob in charge. But when Bob himself fell ill and passed away in 2007, it was Lorna and their daughter Michelle’s turn to take over.

Lorna and her late husband Bob, son of Wallis Theatres founder, Hughie Wallis.

The cinema chain, now known as Wallis Cinemas, has been making South Australians laugh, cry and everything in between for almost 70 years.

“As long as people still come to the cinemas, that’s what we want,” Lorna says.

“There’s nothing like the big screen, I know there are big TVs now, but there’s nothing quite like a night out at the movies.”

Hughie Wallis had a fascination with photography and filmmaking and laid the foundations of his business when he began screening Hollywood films in community halls across Adelaide.

The opening of the Blue Line at West Beach in the ’50s sparked the establishment of a handful of other Wallis drive-ins and cinemas across metropolitan Adelaide and regional SA.

Its theatres included the Ozone at Glenelg, the Chelsea in Adelaide’s east, a cinema complex in Hindmarsh Square and of course, the Piccadilly in North Adelaide.

Lorna has fond memories of the old theatre, as she grew up around the corner on Childers Street, and would see a film there every Wednesday and Saturday night “with a group of young ones”.

The Piccadilly Cinema in its early days. PHOTO: Cinema Treasures, Brian Pearson. 

She says the Piccadilly Theatre was also Bob’s favourite.

“Bob loved going to the Piccadilly, his funeral was held there,” she says.

“They had on his seat, ‘reserved for Bob’, which was nice.”

Over the decades, the drive-in culture faded and the company closed many of its facilities.

Wallis now employs about 230 people across four cinemas at Mitcham, Piccadilly, Noarlunga, and Mt Barker, as well as the Gepps Cross drive-in. The business recently purchased the Deacons Cinema at Mildura.

Lorna says Wallis Cinemas’ success and longevity in SA as a small-to-medium enterprise is all down to its loyal employees.

“A lot of our staff have been with us for 40 years, so we have very loyal employees. You have to have good people around you. Bob always told me that you’re only as good as the people around you,” she says.

“The patron is number one and we believe in pleasant customer service and cleanliness in our cinemas.”

The Piccadilly Cinemas.

Lorna admits business is tough with competition from larger cinema chains and online streaming giants such as Netflix, causing Wallis to drop its ticket prices by almost 50% last year.

Nonetheless, she says Wallis Cinemas is proud of its SA heritage and its small-scale footprint.

“We’re family. We’re too small to go up against the big guys interstate,” Lorna says.

“I’m proud to be South Australian. I’ve grown up here, my family’s grown up here and I just think we’re a lovely little state.

“You get into these others that get a bit big, but I love it here.”

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

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Adelaide’s tea queen sets the bar

Black or green, a dash of milk, a squeeze of lemon or a dollop of honey, and what about that crooked pinky finger?

Ask Adelaide’s tea queen and I Choose SA ambassador Peggy Veloudos about the do’s and don’ts of drinking the world’s second most widely consumed beverage and she’ll say “each to their own”.

After 20 years of dedicating her life and her business to the world of tea, the co-founder of Adelaide’s T BAR Purveyors of Tea knows just about every possible way people all over prefer their cuppa.

However, she has one or two hard-and-fast rules when it comes to tea – including never “corrupting” a green, herbal, white or fruit tea with milk. Nonetheless, for Peggy, tea drinking is a universal soul soother.

T BAR co-founder Peggy Veloudos is an I Choose SA ambassador for the SME sector.

“Over the last 20 years I’ve discovered so many beautiful teas,” she says.

“When we first decided we were going to open a tea shop, I thought ‘wow, what a world’. It was so intriguing and I kept learning so many things about it. There’s about 5000 different teas that have been named in the world.”

T BAR has a retail presence in the Adelaide Central Market and in Rundle Place, with a team of about 15 employees across both stores and a warehouse at Torrensville, 10 minutes from the CBD.

Peggy co-founded the small business in 1999 alongside her husband John, her brother Tony George and his wife Kate.

John and Peggy had owned Zuma Caffe in the central market for about seven years when they noticed a vacant retail space down the way, presenting the perfect opportunity for Peggy to share her tea passions with Adelaide.

T BAR was Adelaide’s first tea salon, selling 120 blends and varieties sourced from all over the world.

“We source really good black teas and some great green teas from pristine, beautiful tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka,” Peggy says.

“We also get oolong tea from Taiwan, while here in Australia we have a few tea gardens, including in Victoria and the Daintree region in Queensland.”

About 40% of T BAR’s business is about retail and online sales while the rest is in the wholesale market, selling to independent supermarkets across SA and interstate, and to restaurants, cafés and hotels.

In 2017 T BAR began supplying to the Australian-owned café Abbotsford Road in Brooklyn, New York.

So whether the tea is delivered to a residential mailbox in Poland or is sipped by a New Yorker in a cosy café, Peggy says she’s proud to call T BAR’s home Adelaide.

“We haven’t overexerted ourselves with having franchises everywhere, we’ve remained small and really pride ourselves on quality,” she says.

“We have a reputation that we’ve built up over the years and we’re very customer orientated.”

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) like T BAR are the backbone of the South Australian economy, with more than 140,000 of them making up the state’s biggest employment sector.

Like many of SA’s successful small business ventures, T BAR’s roots began in the family home and was born from a mixture of tradition and passion.

Born in SA to Greek migrant parents from island of Cyprus, Peggy’s family lived in a suburban home where the kettle was always boiling.

Peggy’s mother Stella would regularly brew Bushells and Amgoorie tea with a stick of cinnamon, aniseed or cloves.

“When we were quite young my father passed away. In a widowed migrant woman’s world men didn’t visit as much anymore, so there was never alcohol on the table,” she says.

“It was mostly women coming to visit and Mum would always have a pot of tea on the go. It was very aromatic and everybody loved that tea, I loved that tea.”

Peggy travels the world to source the highest quality teas, from the common black, green and white teas to oolong and pu-erh teas.

She sips on about six cups every day, starting off with a quality English Breakfast in the morning before moving onto a pot of blended tea throughout the day, and finishing off with a white tea before bed.

She urges tea lovers to choose high quality tea at the checkout because it’s made with more love.

“When you’re buying from a boutique teahouse, you know that they pride themselves on quality,” Peggy says.

“With a high quality tea you’re not going to get the bitterness and the tannins. Pay a little bit extra, you’ll also use less (tea leaves) because it goes a long way.”

Peggy’s says T BAR’s success in SA is because of the state’s loyal customer base.

“SA is a great place to start a business and after 20 years, we’re still passionate about what we do,” she adds.

To gain more insight into SA’s SME sector, join Brand South Australia’s Industry Briefing on April 10. Click here for more information.

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

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Fleurieu food business Home Grain Bakery is on a roll

Home Grain Bakery couple Toff and Cara West have mastered the recipe for success in South Australia’s small to medium enterprise sector.

Almost a decade ago, the Wests had no experience in business or bakeries when they decided to open a bakehouse in the former general store at Aldinga.

Now the pair are behind four successful Home Grain Bakery stores across the Fleurieu Peninsula and McLaren Vale, feeding scores of visitors with hot pies, pasties, cakes and other baked goods.

Toff and Cara West with two of their three children Trip and Meg outside one of the Home Grain Bakeries. PHOTO: Courtney McFarlane.

They admit launching a small business in the beach town south of Adelaide was a hard slog at first, with Cara at the time five months pregnant with the first of their three children.

“It’s been a challenge and we worked bloody hard, but I don’t think I’d do anything differently,” says Toff, who grew up on the Fleurieu.

“We wanted to have a place that we liked working in and people we liked working with.”

Home Grain Bakery has an overall workforce of about 70 people across its four stores, in Aldinga, Middleton, McLaren Flat, and a smaller ‘pop-up’ at Mt Compass.

Although the bakery is already on the way to becoming a Fleurieu food icon, the Wests want its reputation to stretch statewide.

“The short-term goal is to refine what we have been doing, pay down some debt and make sure we have the best business model as possible to grow,” Toff says.

“That will be a good place to be in by 2020.”

The Home Grain Bakery story begins when Toff and Cara met at Flinders University in 2007.

Cara, originally from the US state of Virginia, was on a semester-long student exchange when she sat next to Toff in a geography lecture.

Toff and Cara met in 2007 before marrying and launching their own business Home Grain Bakery four years later. PHOTO: Josie Withers.

“My parents told me not to fall in love and stay in Australia, but I did just that,” Cara laughs.

“I had never heard of SA until the exchange program and I’d never even had a sausage roll before.

“Now I don’t know how my kids would survive without them.”

Together they travelled the world, keeping a journal of “all the things we liked in coffee shops, bakeries and cafés”, with a dream of one day pursuing their own business venture.

It was after they married in 2010 and returned to SA when that dream fast became reality.

“We came back from a four-month honeymoon around the world and saw that the old general store in Aldinga was for sale,” Toff says.

“We thought it was a great spot for something and we knew that the town needed a welcoming place to get a good pie and coffee.

“We had no experience but were interested in business, so we hired a baker and opened a bakery. We just weren’t willing to sit back and watch someone else do it.”

The West family enjoying hot meat pies at Home Grain Bakery. PHOTO: Josie Withers.

While Cara handled the marketing side of Home Grain Bakery, Toff took over the general running of the business.

The pair was also mentored by fellow bakehouse Brighton Jetty Bakery and say the kind-hearted nature of others in the food industry attributed to their success.

“I think in business, there are two types of people,” Toff says.

“There are the ones who are willing to share with you their take on the industry, and then there are the ones who are quite secretive.

“Now we are very open and share what we do with anybody who asks, we’ve helped half-a-dozen other small businesses get up and running. It’s exciting for us to see others give it a go.”

Home Grain Bakery products are made from scratch, using the “best possible local ingredients”.

The bakery has long teamed up with the Fleurieu Milk Company, Laucke Flour Mills and Villeré Coffee, which have all supported them “from day one”.

“We use all our own recipes which means you can’t get our products anywhere else,” Toff says.

“During peak season we bake over 1000 pies and pasties a day at Aldinga to sell across all four bakeries.”

The Wests say a strong backing by the local community has helped their small business stay afloat, as has the reputation of SA’s premium food offerings.

“I think the quality of food here in SA is very high on a world scale,” Toff says.

“We have access to great produce and we have people who care about the food.

“That’s something that should be promoted to the world.”

To gain more insight into SA’s small to medium enterprise sector, join Brand South Australia’s Industry Briefing on April 10. Click here for more information.

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.