They vowed to rebuild and mere months after arson attacks, the Yianoulakis family will reopen its popular Olive at Hawker restaurant.
On 27 March, fire destroyed the family-owned Olive at Mawson at Southlands Shopping Centre while its sister restaurant Olive at Hawker escaped with around $400,000 damage.
The fires, which police believed were deliberately lit, left the Yianoulakis family devastated as their source of income and pride went up in smoke.
“It has been a very stressful journey and we are relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” owner Dimitri Yianoulakis shared with Region Media. “I don’t wish an incident like this on anybody.
“We’ve all taken it really hard but mum took it the worst, she’s been heavily involved with both venues and has put her heart and soul into it so it was gut-wrenching for her,” he said.
“She can’t stay at home, she’s a working lady.”
“It has been really hard to fathom how damaging it is for somebody. The thought of just staying shut did cross our minds a few times because we lost two venues on the same night but we have a family to support and the least we can do is reopen.”
Mr Yianoulakis said they wanted to reopen their restaurant not just for themselves but to give back to the Hawker community for the endless support they had shown since the incident.
“All the support from family, friends, tradespeople have made a difference,” he said. “Everybody has really rallied behind us and offered wherever they can to help us get up and running. Even the landlord himself has dipped into his own pocket to help us get the building up to scratch.
“It has been a massive outpouring from the community to help us open as quickly as possible. It has really boosted our spirits and motivated us.”
The 100-seat restaurant is almost fully booked for its reopening night on Tuesday (23 July).
With the rebuild, the family have installed extra CCTV cameras but Mr Yianoulakis is praying the restaurants would not be targeted again.
“We are hoping and praying that no one targets us again,” he shared. “Whether we buy a house, pour a foundation or open a restaurant, we always get a priest to bless it.
“It is our little traditional thing that we do and it gives a good blessing to the restaurant and symbolises good beginnings.”
The family’s Mawson restaurant needs to be completely demolished and rebuilt as it’s structurally unsound but the family still hopes to reopen it and even venture into Gungahlin in the coming years.
“Our plans for opening a venue in Gungahlin haven’t stopped but we have put it on the backburner,” Mr Yianoulakis said. “We haven’t taken the idea off the table because it is a big thriving area and there is a lack of good food outlets.
“Mawson needs a lot more work but our main focus is just getting Hawker up and running and then we can concentrate on the other two.”
An ACT Policing spokesperson said investigations into the fires remain ongoing.
Anyone with information about these incidents or who saw individuals near these locations the morning of the incidents is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.
Please quote reference 6378338. Information can be provided anonymously.