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Kyriakos Philippides: The story of the 'the old man with the orange juice' in Limassol!

Limassol is the sum of its people. Each and every one of these faces has a story to tell, one that becomes woven into the rich tapestry of color and soul that makes up our town.  If you look closely at each of these people, you will find within them a piece of Limassol. With tributes in All About Limassol, the Official Source for Promoting Limassol, these people are showcased as the city's advantage. This is the story of one such person, Kyriacos Philippides. His name may not ring a bell for our younger readers, who knew him simply as the ‘old man with the orange juice.’ The elderly man could always be found sitting on the pedestrian street of Genethliou Mitella, smiling and waving at all who passed. This is how both locals and visitors got to know him in recent years, making him one of Limassol’s most well-known figures. Kyriacos Philippides lived in Limassol’s historic center for just under a century. In this time, he became a part of the town’s heritage, his figure becoming intrinsically tied to the narrow, picturesque streets of the neighborhood he inhabited.

Had he not suffered a tragic, unexpected accident on a fateful rainy day in January 2018, the affable elderly man would still be in his usual spot, greeting everyone who passed him by. He was in his 98th year of life, having lived almost an entire century upon this earth. Yet, none of the usual ailments associated with age had ever burdened him. Healthy and robust, he did not suffer from hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, or any of the sort. He spent the greater part of his life designing and making shoes in his workshop, one of the most well-known in Limassol. It was located on Zig Zag Street (where it has now been replaced by the Guest Meze Bar), and it was there that he dedicated his most creative years, servicing thousands of people who came to him to order custom made shoes. Even celebrities such as Greek singer and actress Sofia Vembo were among his customers.

The only problem Kyriacos Philippides encountered in his later years was deteriorating sight, an inevitable consequence of spending decades bent over outlines and pieces of leather, poring over his meticulous designs. His work filled him with a sense of joie de vivre, as did the people who frequented the town center, and this was likely a direct cause of his longevity. Two things were like oxygen to him – his art, and his contact with the world.

For as long as he had the opportunity to remain in his little orange juice shop on Genethliou Mitella Street, smiling at passersby and offering them refreshments, he remained full of life. However, when the accident led him to the isolation of a hospital bed, he began to lose parts of himself until his joyful, happy soul was all but extinguished. Being outdoors, meeting people, exchanging greetings and engaging in conversations are what gave him will to live, and this was also the reason behind his little orange juice shop. Though it did not offer him much in the way of a living, but it did allow him to live the life he loved.   

For Kyriacos Philippides, designing and manufacturing shoes was an art, an art to which he devoted all his passion, his talent, and his attention, for decades. This same philosophy is embraced today by his daughter and his grandson, both of whom have taken on the role of his successors in this art form.

“Recently, around the age of 85, he expressed the desire to learn how to use a computer,” his daughter Lydia recalls, confirming the theory that this was a man who yearned to feel constantly connected with the pulse of the world, communicating with the people around him. “When he was injured, he looked forward to getting better so he could get back up and return to his shop. Alas, this was not to be.”

Kyriacos Philippides came to Limassol alone as a young teenager, aged 14 or 15, looking to make a living. Lydia, who is one of his six children, recounts him at first working with his brother, who was a carpenter. “He then decided to become an apprentice to a craftsman and learn the art of shoemaking. He thus ended up making shoes for residents of Limassol and beyond for decades.” With his workshop on Zig Zag Street, home to cafés, restaurants and bars today, he spent almost his entire life in Limassol’s old town center, becoming a point of reference to all who passed through the neighborhood.   

Kyriacos Philippides and his daughter Lydia, outside of his shoe workshop on Zig Zag Street.

“His first shop was on Agiou Andreou Street, but once he took on employees, he moved to a larger shop in the Zig Zag area. He employed 10 to 15 craftsmen and craftswomen, so he needed more space,” recalls Lydia, who is the only one of Kyriacos Philippides’ children to continue his art. She has her own shoe workshop today, mere steps from where her father’s once stood, in the Theatro Ena area (formerly the Municipal Market).

 “He was a man of the family and of the home… He lived a happy life”

The art of shoemaking, of designing and crafting an entire shoe by hand, cut and sewn to a customer’s exact measurements, is carried on today by Kyriacos Philippides’ daughter and grandson, Titos, the latter of whom has taken the art a step further with his studies abroad.

Shoes were a special occasion item at the time, only bought once or twice a year. Kyriacos Philippides knew this, and he made sure that every pair he made was perfect, so as to satisfy his customers.

What do you remember most vividly from your father?
LYDIA: As a person, he was complete, and because of this, he lived a happy life. He was a quiet man, and especially calm and rational. These were all important characteristics for his job. He was also a man of the family and of the home, of church and of God. He never acted out of line, he never drank or abused any substances. In fact, I don’t think I ever recall him getting angry in his life. He never shouted or laid a hand on any of his children.

The only time I remember him becoming agitated was a few days before he passed away, when he was hospitalized and lying on a bed with a railing. “Take these bars away from me,” he would demand, “I don’t want them!”

TITOS: All of my grandfather’s knowledge and experience was passed down to us. He taught us that to survive in this industry, you must keep chasing your passion. If you leave it, it will leave you.

His urge to share his love and positive vibes with people, by communicating with them, was not reduced even a little through the years.

Is there something that you kept as a rule in this job, which came as a lesson from him?  LYDIA: “Our work is right here, with the people,” he would always say, emphasizing the importance of communication and keeping good relationships with people, both on a professional and a personal level. It was especially important to him to fully understand a customer’s requirements, and in turn, offer correct advice, so as to ensure that said customer left happy and satisfied. Our father loved his work, and he never shied away from it, even if it kept him away from home for hours on end. He wasn’t able to spend as much time with his family as he wanted, especially as there were so many of us, but he was proud to have built a successful business, one that allowed him to raise and provide for his children.

Before the time when shoes became mass produced, Kyriacos Philippides’ workshop employed up to 15 craftsmen and craftswomen.

How many hours did your father spend at the shop?
LYDIA: He worked many hours. We barely saw him at home, which was one of the reasons that led me to join him at the shop and help. He would begin work at 7 in the morning, and often came home at 10 at night.

Did your father ever wish that more of his children became involved in his art?
LYDIA: He never expressed such a desire. Of course, he was proud that I remained by his side and continued working in his workshop, especially because I was a woman. But even when it came to me, he never demanded that I join him at the workshop, or expect me to stay there. That was my own decision, and it was, of course, one that did make him happy.

In his orange juice shop, on the pedestrian road of Genethliou Mitella, a few days before the accident which took his life, in January 2018.

Kyriacos Philippides was one of those people who, despite having lived a quiet life, left his mark on Limassol by adding his own small story to the city’s rich narrative tapestry. By carrying out his work with enthusiasm, dedication and attention to detail, Kyriacos Philippides did not just make shoes. Instead, he created something special for each of his customers, taking care to meet every single one of their needs. Perhaps without even realizing it, he became a living example of how hard work, care, and concern for quality make something stand out, be it a simple pair of shoes, a small workshop, or the entire town of Limassol. 

Following in his footsteps, and embodying the same skills and talents, his daughter and grandson continue to make shoes that are just as beautiful and unique. Their customers are not just residents of Limassol and Cyprus, but also people from Europe who send in special orders for custom made shoes. This true craftsmanship, which has withstood the test of time, is part of what makes Limassol special. People abroad know and love our town, not simply for its grand impressive features, but also for its everyday people and their unique skills and purity of heart. 

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