Iconic Grafton takeaway to close shop
CHARCOAL Chicken owner John Agiannitis admits he's never been much good with names. He's a gun a remembering faces though.
And as for orders, well, some people don't even have to speak.
"We know exactly what they want - crumbed chicken and chips? It's already on. Some people don't even ask anymore," he said.
The iconic chicken shop has been in its current location since 1988, and will close the doors for good this Sunday.
"It's time to retire," he said. "I wish the body was a little better, but it's not - the body just doesn't take it any more."
Mr Agiannitis bought into a chicken shop located across the road in 1988 after selling a similar shop in Adelaide.
After a year, he decided to expand, and when the current location became vacant, he bought the building and moved across.
Having grown up watching his father cook, Mr Agiannitis gained a similar love for cooking and continued the recipes, such as the rice custard and others.
In the early days, without the competition of the major supermarkets in the hot chicken game, it was his biggest seller.
"We used to sell a great deal, we could go through 1200 chickens a week," he said.
"Now, every bit of competition, while they do take a bit out us, I'm surprised over the years the chickens still do so well."
The recipes for his food, which he initially took from original owner Angelo, has changed over the years to adapt to tastes as well as demand.
"The gravy we have changed, and it used to be done in a small bucket, now we make a 21kg bucket every two days that turns into 36kg when we add the water," he said.
"I think it's because we're consistent," he said. "We don't try to achieve fancy food. We do good basic meals.
"You come here, and you get your pork dinner, it's a genuine meal. Not a fancy thing where you're still hungry."
It doesn't hurt there's usually a bit of pork crackle hiding in the packaging too.
Mr Agiannitis said he was sad to close the business down, and had tried to sell it, but had no offers he had been happy with, and so the doors will lock on Sunday November 3.
"I'm extremely surprised the reaction people who have heard we're closing have," he said. "Some of them are devastated; one lady was about to cry.
"But we've always had people travel from all over. Someone came in and said they'd driven 40 minutes just to get the rice custard and they'd be back before the weekend.
"We've always had others come from Lismore, Armidale, they don't come in for one pork dinner they get three so everyone gets one."
And as he prepared to put the final rack of chickens up, he had to think about what it would be like being mentioned alongside the historic food places of Grafton like Langley's and the Waratah Cafe.
"It's definitely a name in Grafton, Charcoal Chicken, and it's been great to have so many people like us," he said.
"Even when we'd closed the door for five weeks, the people come right back in like we'd never closed.
"It's a good feeling... but I'll miss talking to the people that come in."