Petrus Spronk

I will never forget Jimmy Frangos. A mixture between a naughty boy and a pretty smart business man. He once told me that the easiest thing in Australia was making money.

Who can forget Jimmy who transformed the corner of Vincent Street and Central Springs Road. Who thumbed his nose at the council people because he figured he could do it better his way than they could. And he did. The tables and seats on the footpath, a case in point. He pushed and he didn’t stop pushing until he got it done. His way.

Or look at the design of the old Belvedere building in total. It has Jimmy’s artistic ideas and delightful details all over it. There is also a touch of his homeland, Greece. Jimmy did everything his way, and I will add that we the people of Daylesford were the better for it. His building is an example of what happens when you leave an artist alone. And he is an artist, a sculptor with a mass of projects in his wake, which includes a few major ones in Ballarat.

He once offered the council a fully grown tree for the circle in the round-about. No luck there. If the Council had given the thousands of dollars to Jimmy instead of to the consultants, he could have turned Vincent Street into a street we could be proud of. And why is that? Take a look at the wonderful design of the building which before was a dreadful pub where you went if you were needing a fight. And then look at the creation of Koukla and the spaces around it which turned out to be a very sophisticated restaurant and place to stay. As far as I am concerned the best in the street and definitely the most creative in town. The result of the other store keepers who followed the Shire’s direction has resulted in a terrible drab street. Not something the locals and visitors deserve. What would have happened, one wonders, had Jimmy had been the designer of the street scape.

His building has, on large parts of it a wave of roses. Just magical. Then, when you step into the building another surprise. Here we find a wonderful, exquisite even, interior design project. Not an idea lifted from a design magazine, but an original Jimmy Frangos. And it didn’t atop there. He has over the last few years been working on making the Swiss Mountain Hotel , a jewel on the side of the Midland Highway at Blampied. Worth a visit. Definitely.

I first became aware of Jimmy’s when I walked past the café to check it out. I heard such good things about it. And I was not disappointed. I first noticed the folded doors, wide open a la the Mediterranean, with a very long table, which invited you to sit with strangers and have a chat. So Greek. I accepted the invitation and spent many a morning having an excellent coffee and a chat, many mornings with Jimmy himself.

There is a beautiful architectural detail on the double doors of the central building, which shows you just one sculptural aspect of his work. The bronze cast hands and lower arms making the handles for the doors. Brilliant.

Jimmy the generous. Who can possibly forget those Christmases where Jimmy roasted a goat on a spit, for a large part of the day, then invited the people who were his customers, his daily coffee drinkers and for absolutely free offered them a feast. He would appear at the gate in Central Springs road, with his daughter and between them carrying the spit with the goat on it. He walked up to the corner and into his café where, on the central table, decked out with many salads and much wine, he would carve up the goat and present his visitors a generous portion. After eating, but not drinking, the tables and chairs would be set aside, the Greek music turned up and the dance would begin. And I, having lived in Greece for a year was totally in my element, as was Jimmy, when we danced together.

But now all that is over. No more Jimmy. No more amazing projects. The end of an era. However, he left us a huge legacy of beautiful and daring design, for which we should be grateful

Jimmy died on Monday the 24th of July in the St. John of God Hospital in Ballarat. I wonder what he thought of the interior design he was looking at, at that place, when he closed his eyes for the last time. Anyway, Jimmy will most probably already be designing his lovely works wherever it is he now resides. He will certainly be improving the place no matter how he finds it.

I called him a friend and I will never forget him. Rest in your creative heaven and make some improvements, as only you can.


Petrus Spronk is a local artist and sculptor who contributes a monthly column to The Wombat Post.