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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Cleo’s Deli, the Market’s longstanding deli

Cleo’s Deli turned 30 in October this year! To mark the occasion, we thought we’d catch up with Cleo himself to ask a few questions about how Cleo’s Deli continues to evolve as one of Melbourne’s premier gourmet food destinations.

How did Cleo’s Deli start?

The shop was originally named Peter’s Deli, owned for 33 years by Joe and Esther Weisenfeld. They were looking for a young couple to buy the business and take it to another level. That’s exactly what we wanted to do.

What was your aim for the business in the beginning?

Our passion was to introduce customers to different flavours of the world. At the time the shop predominately featured Polish and Jewish delights but we wanted to really concentrate on Greek and Italian foods.

What’s one of your earliest memories of Prahran Market?

The enormous hustle and bustle of people, particularly early in the mornings. There was always an excited atmosphere, whether it be from the man shouting from the tower directing customers to park or just simply with the packed arcades of the Market.

How has Cleo’s Deli grown?

We reconfigured the store to be a walk-through to the Market, which enabled two different entry points. We’ve always been recognised as leaders in food trends and over the decades we redirected and diversified our style of food to reflect this. Twenty years ago we introduced packaged ready-made meals catering to people with demanding lifestyles who seek out healthy, convenient meal solutions.

What is Cleo’s Deli known for?

Today we specialise in Spanish, Italian and other Mediterranean cuisine. More recently we developed a range of Brazilian and other South American products to cater for an influx of Melbournians with Latin American origin. It’s always nice to see shoppers excited to find products from their homeland.

What have you learnt during your time at Cleo’s Deli?

You must evolve with food trends; Greek cuisine was fashionable twenty years ago and is now re-emerging as a popular cuisine once again. While you must listen to what your customers want, you also need to lead through food innovation. Reality food TV and social media marketing have grown immensely over the years, meaning food trends are even more dynamic. To remain a leader in the industry we must remain well in tune with social, cultural and culinary progress.

How would you describe the staff at Cleo’s Deli?

Prepared to learn and enthusiastically pass on their knowledge to customers. They happily serve regular customers and are always keen to please those new to the Cleo’s experience.

If you weren’t at Cleo’s Deli what would you be doing?

Probably a dentist – charging a fortune for pulling teeth!

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