George Emanuel Cominos (1884-1962)
Bylio (Pelagia) Mylonas
In 1927, a Greek migrant, George Emanuel Cominos became the new owner of the the building now known as "Cominos House".
Born on the Island of Kythera, one of the Ionian Islands of Southern Greece that had passed from Britain to Greece in 1864. He arrived in Sydney in 1901 – the year of Federation, seeking better prospects and opportunities in the new land. Following a series of various undertakings, in 1906 he opened a café in the centre of Cairns, which was to become one of the most successful catering enterprises in the history of the city. At this time it was described as "Australia's most modern cafe".
In 1920 George returned to Greece where he did his military service and married Bylio (Pelagia) Mylonas. Five years later he returned with his wife to Cairns and for almost three decades continued to work as the manager of the Cominos Café.
Due to his vision, hard work and persistence he became one of the most highly respected residents of Cairns. He is especially remembered for his generosity and philanthropy, sponsoring numerous sports and community events as well as assisting people in need, particularly during the 1930s depression.
George E. Cominos and his "departmental cafe" are also remembered as a pioneers of catering and of the tourism industry in Far North Queensland. When Mr Cominos opened the cafe in Abbott Street he said in those early days that "conducted on the right basis, in a centre such as Cairns, a cafe attracts a complete cross-section of the community - both local and tourist - with correspondingly unique opportunities for service."
As one report in 1934 stated. "Over the years, he has built up a business replete with many conveniences so badly lacking in many such establishments in the capital cities." In the 1949 he met all the costs of publishing ‘The Northern Wonderland' – a promotional booklet with the aim to ‘stimulate interest in this most important outpost of Australia’. In the preface, he prophetically stated what was to become the Cairns’ reality 30 years later: ‘this portion of Australia with Cairns as the pivotal point will become one of the world’s most popular and attractive tourist resorts, a veritable Tourists’ Paradise, and another major industry will be firmly established’.
Guided by such thoughts, encouraged by an appropriate and responsive public and helped by a loyal and co-operative staff, George Cominos set out to provide the model cafe service. His policy of giving his customers quality and service continued until the doors of Cominos Cafe closed in 1952. He became more than an employer and friend to all those who became associated with him over the period of almost 50 years, when Cominos Cafe operated in the heart of Cairns.
(Parts extracted from Cominos Cafe Reunion held at Pacific International Hotel 2nd. August 1986 - Souvenir pamphlet)