Savoy says farewell in old-fashioned style

Warrnambool’s Savoy Restaurant owners Alan Tampion and his wife Roslyn holding great-grandson Coby Tampion-Collins, 2, announce they are retiring and closing their Liebig Street restaurant after running the establishment for almost three decades. 140618DW52 Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

Warrnambool’s Savoy Restaurant owners Alan Tampion and his wife Roslyn holding great-grandson Coby Tampion-Collins, 2, announce they are retiring and closing their Liebig Street restaurant after running the establishment for almost three decades. 140618DW52 Picture: DAMIAN WHITE

LIFE in the Savoy Restaurant has changed little since it opened in  1959 — basically the same decor, friendly service and home-cooked menu.

Several generations of customers have been through the doors of the Liebig Street, Warrnambool eatery.

But come June 29 all that will be history as Alan and Roslyn Tampion sadly serve their last cups of coffee and tea to loyal customers who have been part of their lives for the past three decades.

They’ve made the agonising decision to call it quits in the face of a substantial rent rise and tough economy.

Their lease ends on July 13, exactly 29 years since they bought the business.

It will give them the chance for their first holiday in 30 years.

“We felt it was better to go out than go under,” they told The Standard.

“The Savoy has been our life for seven days a week — we’ll find it hard to adapt to the change.

“We’ve met marvellous people who have become close friends.”

After their “end of an era” afternoon tea for customers on Sunday, the Tampions will embark on the emotional task of packing up their equipment and gallery of historical photographs adorning the walls.

Alan has been part of the Liebig Street scene for more than 50 years since he joined the staff at Moran and Cato grocery store in 1962 and in the food industry since he left school at the age of 14.

The couple operated the Thistle milk bar in Timor Street for five years before moving into the Savoy where Roslyn had worked as a cook and waitress.

“About the only things we changed were the tables and chairs,” they said. 

“Customers  are not just an order — they are real people with lives and stories to tell.

“The Savoy has been a meeting place for several generations and is even mentioned in eulogies.

“Our three children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild have also been involved in helping out.”

The Savoy building started life as a saddlery in the 1860s, serving that role till the 1930s when it became a clothing shop and later a carpet shop before the Frangos family opened a café in 1959.

For the first few years after the Tampions took over it was not uncommon for their kitchen to be running hot till 11pm during an era when Friday night shopping brought large crowds into the CBD.

“We’d be full at 9pm and there were very long hours seven days a week, but we enjoyed every moment,” they said.

The Savoy closure follows an announcement by the Trotman family they would close The $2 Plus Shop in Liebig Street by September rather than sign up to a substantial rent increase.

Alan Tampion cites parking as a major factor in the decline of Liebig Street as a retail hub.

“A lot of people don’t come to the CBD because of parking issues,” he said.

“I think free parking would help address the retail downturn as long as staff don’t hog the spaces.

“In 1986 when we had to contribute $24,000 to an off-street car park scheme there were 141 free two-hour parks — now there are meters.

“And when the pedestrian traffic lights were installed in Liebig Street many parking spaces were removed.”

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