Michael Michaelides - Jaws

(This is an article I wrote in 2002 for a Devonport newsletter. Now, in 2011, Jaws is still trading. Liz)

Celebrating 25 Years in Devonport!

On Thursday 18th July Michael Michaelides of Jaws will be celebrating 25 years of being in the fish & chip business at Cumberland Street in Devonport. If you are passing on that day I’m sure you will see some sort of flag flying in their window.

Originally from Cyprus Michael first came to England 28 years ago, and within three years had moved to Devonport and established what was to become a thriving local business. When he first moved in, the shop was called John Hooper Fish & Chips, after the previous owner, but around that time the movie ‘Jaws’ was making a hit in the cinemas – Michael thought the name suited perfectly his fish shop – and it’s been called that ever since.

Local Friends.

His first impression, 25 years ago, was that Devonport was... “like a village where everyone gets to know one another". He continued,"Maybe it’s not quite like that nowadays but it was years ago – people were so friendly and everyone in this part of town communicating with each other, including to me as a newcomer. I’ve made lots of friends around here. I know many people and understand the community and the changes that are happening."

Community Growth.

About ten years ago, Michael and Dave (then the chemist at nearby Stoltons) wrote to Plymouth City Council about bringing improvements to the area. Subsequently various Action Groups developed in pockets within Devonport and, by 2001 the New Deal for Communities (NDC) initiative arrived in Devonport ***. Michael recalled that Robert Plumb of Plymouth City Council later remarked to him, “you were among the early ones in getting things moving” so Michael is proud of his community contributions. When the New Deal for Communities arrived in Devonport Michael supported its development and attended meetings, but for the moment however, business schedules prevent further attendances. He said, “if NDC get it right, then Devonport will be improved, it will be good for all concerned, for residents and for businesses - but there needs to be a good healthy mix, of different types of business, of residents old and new – a good mix”.

Family – Youth.

Michael is a family man, his wife and children helping with everything at the shop, including serving customers. Over the years he has employed many Devonport folk but at the moment a lot of his local staff have moved away, being relocated as part of the regeneration process. Of the local youth he feels that many of them are... “OK at heart, just following the crowd, and that’s how they might get into trouble. The solution would be to keep guiding them through the years 12 to 18, to keep them busy – often they only get into trouble because they have nothing else to do. If there were more choices locally more than half of these boys wouldn’t get into trouble.”

Michael the Movie Buff

After ten years of successful trading in Devonport Michael was able to buy number two George Street, which was then operating as a bakery. In 1994 he modernised this property, reopened as a pizza parlour and renamed the shop Mystic Pizza. Yes, that’s right, after the movie of the same name.

I asked whether his Devonport shops had ever served anyone famous as a customer? “I once delivered a pizza to Brian Conley. He was starring at the Theatre Royal at the time, and was staying as a guest at Dawn French’s home in Stoke. I was surprised to see him open the door to me, and my voice rose high as I asked ‘is it you?’ He mimicked me and responded with an equally high voice ‘yes it’s me’. He gave me a £2 tip, and the pizza was a ham and pineapple.”

Jaws Opening Hours are:
Monday to Thursday - 11.30 to 2 and 4.30 to 11.30
Fridays and Saturdays - 11.30 to 2 and 4.30 to 12

Jaws Fish & Chips shop in Cumberland Street.

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*** In order to deliver the NDC program, an arbitrary line was drawn around the map of Devonport, cutting off some areas and streets. For example, the programme did not officially extend to Morice Town, which has always been a part of Devonport.

(Page added 16 May 2011 - updated November 2011)