28 February 2023

Caesars furniture store Griffith celebrates 60th anniversary and confirms expansion

| Oliver Jacques
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A group of people in front of balloons

Paul Pierotti with the Fanini family: Adrian, Nadia, Anna and Marco. Photo: Supplied.

The iconic Caesars Griffith furniture shop held a party to commemorate its 60th year on Saturday, 25 February, celebrating longevity in an industry that’s become increasingly brutal for family-run businesses.

The function, held at 5 Favell Street, was attended by a who’s who of the Griffith glitterati, including accountant-to-the-stars Roy Spagnolo, councillors Anne Napoli and Christine Stead, Mark Owen of Owen Toyota, and history buff Christine Del Gigante. Musicians Ben Ceccato and Glenn Starr provided the entertainment.

READ ALSO ‘Mad Maximus’ scrap iron sculpture to greet visitors entering Griffith

Owner Paul Pierotti told guests about the history of his store, which was opened by his father, the late Frank Pierotti, and his aunty, Anna Fanini, in 1963.

“My dad migrated to Australia just after World War II,” Paul said. “His region of Tuscany was flattened by the Germans and then by the Italians and Americans.

“He first immigrated to Perth, where he worked in the mines, then moved to Melbourne, where he used to sell Italian cinema advertising and do voice-overs. It was there he met my mum, who was from a Scottish family. They married and moved to Griffith in 1963.

“They knew they’d have a strong customer base in Griffith for quality Italian-designed furniture.”

Paul Pierotti in old photo with trophy

A young Paul Pierotti presents a trophy. Caesars often sponsors local sports. Photo: Supplied.

Paul, who was born in 1966, said he enjoyed his modest upbringing as his father worked hard to forge a future for the family in the Riverina.

“We lived like a lot of the refugee families in Griffith. There were four parents, five children and at times up to four boarders living in a three-bedroom fibro home with one bathroom on Wood Road. There was a party every night of the week. We lived in the craziest, maddest, busiest place.”

He said the furniture industry had transformed in his lifetime.

“When I was young, I’d go to the furniture show, I’d meet 20 or 30 other family businesses. But not anymore. It’s become really hard. The industry has become global, and the big multinationals have muscled their way in … when I came into the business, 80 per cent of the product was Australian made. Now, we’d be lucky to have 20 good Australian suppliers left.”

READ ALSO Italian immigrant who helped build Griffith keeps working in his 80s

Labour and skill shortages had made it tough for local furniture stores, but Caesars retained a competitive advantage, Paul said.

“We have a leg-up thanks to our knowledge and our history. We have fostered relationships with suppliers for many years … you have to know what you are doing in Australia. Our climate is particularly harsh on timbers. Unless you have the right timber for the right environment, that’s going to cause you problems. We have nights that are plus 30 (degrees), we have nights minus five, and we need products that are able to deliver to this market. You need to have experience and knowledge to know what will suit.”

Two men in front of 60th sign

Roy Spagnolo and Paul Pierotti at the 60th-anniversary party. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Caesars has also benefited from loyal staff. At the 60th-anniversary celebrations, Paul paid tribute to Sam Catanzariti, who has worked in the company for half a century – starting as a carpet layer apprentice in 1973 before moving into sales.

As the business expands, the flooring section (Carpet Court) will soon be relocating to new premises in Favell Street. The furniture will remain at the store at 46 Altin Street, where a new scrap-metal art sculpture built by Urana’s Andrew Whitehead, named Mad Maximus, was recently erected to celebrate the Caesars’ milestone.

More information on Caesars, including photos from the party, can be found on its Facebook page.

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