From corner café to brunch institution: the Argo story

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By Melissa Keogh

It’s not hard to judge the success of Daniel Milky’s hugely popular Argo on the Parade by seeing the lineup of eager smashed avocado enthusiasts snaked out the door.

Same goes for Victoria Square’s Argo on the Square, a weekday hotspot crawling with diners wanting their quinoa or falafel fix.

Argo and Co owner Daniel says his family’s cafés may have served Hollywood royalty including Hilary Swank and Adelaide’s own Teresa Palmer, but it’s the everyday people of SA who really spark his interest when placing their coffee orders.

Argo and Co owner Daniel Milky is at home behind the coffee machine.

“People come into the shop and talk about all sorts of things, they might be having a problem or something that’s really working for them and I love being in that position, connecting with people,” he says.

“Once you get involved and start mingling, people genuinely care about you.”

Both Argo cafés fall under Daniel and his family’s business Argo and Co, which also includes Nev’s Supa Deli at St Agnes, specialty coffee roaster Monastery Coffee and Juice Bureau, also on The Parade.

Daniel is also a partner in barbershop The Fellow Barber, and is an online coach and co-founder of The Business Therapist of Evolve East End co-working venue.

Overall, Argo and Co employs about 130 South Australians.

It’s a family affair, with the Milky clan – of Lebanese heritage – all involved in the business “in some way or another”.

Daniel grew up with six sisters and one brother and spent most of his childhood running around the family’s delis and snack bars.

“Anyone who is in business knows how incredibly difficult it is to run a business with family, they’re your biggest asset and your biggest liability at the same time,” he says.

“I can’t do what I do without my family because at the end of the day if something needs to be done I can trust that it’s going to happen and there’s no second guessing.”

The Argo phenomenon began in 2010 shortly after Argo on the Parade opened.

Argo Delicatessen has existed in its place for decades, with the Milky family involved in the popular deli in years gone by.

Daniel had achieved a degree in health sciences and a Masters in accounting, but upon finding out the old Argo deli was up for sale once more, he made an offer and signed a deal within hours.

“It was one of those things that happened, it wasn’t a conscious thought that occurred,” he says.

“Going through all my university education was a lot of work and then saying I’m going to go back to hospitality, it was like five or six years of uni going down the drain.”

The career change paid off, as the Norwood café quickly built a loyal following of coffee lovers and health conscious diners, sparking the need for another Argo in Victoria Square.

Now there’s rarely a time during the day when the coffee machine isn’t grinding or the smoothie blender not roaring.

Like most South Australians who are behind small to medium enterprises, Daniel has always had his finger on the political pulse.

Daniel describes the new Liberal Government’s proposed payroll tax cut for small businesses as a “boost of confidence”.

Under the plan, the payroll tax threshold would be lifted from $600,000 to $1.5m.

“I think we’re (currently) paying around $80,000–$90,000 a year in payroll tax,” Daniel says.

“It affects small business in a huge way, because that’s money that we cannot afford to go and invest in new equipment, new staff or expansions because you have to account for this deficit.”

Further growth is on the horizon for Argo and Co, with aspirations for an Argo Wholefoods store to launch this year, a few doors up from Argo on the Parade.

The smaller café will aim to provide healthy and reasonably priced meals for families.

Daniel is also working on an Argo gym concept, allowing fitness gurus a chance to enjoy healthy fare before or after their workouts.

The concept will launch in September or October in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

“We pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve in what’s offered in this space, especially this healthy eating, breakfast and brunch space, and not just offering the same old,” Daniel says.

“If you want to find something a bit different, you’re more likely to find it with us.”

I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.

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