Christie’s: the Cloudland of Queen Street

Guest blogger: Toni Risson, 2016 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow

From the 1930s to the 1950s Greek cafés did their best to fulfill the dream of elegance and glamour that drifted down from the silver screen. Among these, Christie’s became a mythic place that Brisbane residents speak of with a reverence normally reserved for Cloudland.

Christie's Cafe, Brisbane, ca. 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 54025

Christie's Cafe, Brisbane, ca. 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 54025

Christos Stahtoures came to Australia in 1918, aged eighteen. He bought a café at 352 Queen Street in 1922. Christie, as he became known, acquired a second shop—217 Queen Street—in the early thirties. He bought this building too. After a £20,000 makeover, Christie’s Café reopened in February 1938 with life-size moulded gazelles leaping through Art Deco clouds on the façade and an open-air balcony that overlooked Queen Street. An island milk bar dominated the ground floor and an orchestra played upstairs. Having been in business for almost 20 years, Christie said 217 was “the fulfillment of his ambition to give the public a modern structure reflecting the gay atmosphere of cafés on the Continent.” With the Wintergarden, Her Majesty's, and several cinemas nearby, Christie’s opened from 8am to 11pm and served stars like Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier, who played in School for Scandal in 1948.

The Stahtoures family lived upstairs at 352 and ran both shops for two decades. Christie’s brother Peter managed 217 and Mrs Eugenia Christie opened up at 352 while Christie went to the Roma Street markets. Baked goods, confectionery, and ice cream were produced at 352 Queen Street. When Christie drowned at Margate in 1947 Eugenia sold 352. Her second husband was Italian, and in 1956 they installed an espresso machine and a Granita machine, among the first of their type in Queensland. The family sold 217 in 1975, and the building was demolished the following year. The café Brisbanites call Christie’s traded for almost forty years.

Toni Risson, 2016 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow

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