Michael Cuomo

Sydney People
Michael Cuomo

Redfern business owner

When Michael Cuomo worked as fruit manager at Coles in Redfern Mall, he didn’t plan on setting himself up against Australia’s ‘big two’ food retailers. But somehow he and his mate Dave from Coles "decided to open a fruit shop together".

Five years later, Mickey’s Fruit & Veg in Pitt Street Redfern is a local institution, now joined by Mickey’s Deli and Mickey’s Blooms. He also has a wholesale arm supplying cafes and restaurants near and far. 

Not bad for a boy who left school before he was 15.

He was trained early, though. His father, an Italian migrant who had his own business at Flemington Markets, expected all four sons to do their share. 

“There was no choice: you got up, you went to the markets, school holidays you went to the markets … I loved it.”

When he found the empty shop on Pitt Street, his father and brothers pitched in. They built the shop over one weekend and opened on the Monday.

He puts his success down to Redfern itself.

“If you put a hundred per cent into it, Redfern will turn around and put a hundred per cent effort into supporting you …

“It’s a little village now and people really want to keep it that way … And it’s a mixed village – the rich and the poor and the medium people have all learnt to get on together. You can park a Maserati out the front of the shop, you can park your bomb Volkswagen or a BMW and nobody looks twice at it.”

Hear the full interview on our Oral Histories site.

Last updated: Monday, 11 May 2015