Acropolis area, in an alley near the fire station there is a small shop that prints shirts and sells nursing uniforms. To enter, a metal door rises in front of you, which someone must open in order to proceed. You go down to a basement. Two large walls rise to the right and left. In the background there is a glass and aluminum door that once you pass through you enter the vestibule. You need about ten steps to cross it and reach the main area, but as soon as you cross them, your mouth is open.
The store of Marios Stavros is a miniature of a Coca Cola factory, or rather a museum, perhaps of the most famous soft drink in the world. Seeing what is unfolding around you, you think for a moment if you really entered the right place and what the hell is going on.
Marios, a man with plenty of humor and a big smile, you he welcomes you like a good host and willingly tries to serve you. Of course he understands your surprise when you see his shop, but he's not the type to brag or show off his collection. On the contrary, if you don't talk to him about his collection, he won't tell you anything.
After we finished talking about work, we immediately opened up about his collection, which began thirty-something years ago when he was 12 or 13 years old.
“We live for “82” and a Coca Cola”
This passion and love for the soft drink started as soon as he joined the Boy Scouts. There he met some children and they became friends, with one of them, Konstantinos, being a fanatical fan of Coca Cola.
“The older people who were there, had tradition to drink Coca-Cola. Our scout was “82” and our slogan then was, “we live for 82 and a Coca Cola”. This love of the scouts for Coca Cola passed on to me and became an obsession.
A friend, Konstantinos, was very fanatical and you know that this love for Coca Cola is slowly growing inside you too. After four or five years, Konstantinos would leave for studies and he came and gave me his collection, because he didn't want to put it in boxes and have them remain buried somewhere. I also had some things and combined them with his, which had tins, bottles, labels and so on.
So I set them up in the lookout and we made it a club. For us then, scouting was our way out, we didn't go to clubs and record stores, nor did we have telephones. We used to gather there in the scout and play our football, our billiards, our atari. So the whole space inside was decorated and we slowly built. Whatever Coca Cola we found and didn't have, we added it to our collection”.
Then he left for the army and when he went out on his nights out, he would visit the club, but by the time he finished, others took over the club and decided to change the decor.>
“So I took all the things and brought them to my house. Then I opened the office, where I changed jobs and moved everything here. I spent many years thinking about how to arrange them in my office and finally made display cases and placed them as I thought best.
I was buying and buying stuff all the time. Even my friends who go on trips bring me something related to Coca Cola instead of a gift. I want to make it clear that I am not selling anything, even things I have five times the same. I get phone calls telling me that someone is selling such and such. I will go in to see it and if I want it I will buy it. I paid a lot of money to make this whole collection”.
Working as a Psychiatrist and Turning to the Nursing Uniform Company
After his return to Cyprus, from Thessaloniki where he studied, he started working as a psychic engineer and at the same time he was fanatically busy with his collection which was expanding day by day.
Due to a due to a health problem he faced, in 2013 he was forced to quit his job and decided to take a bold step by opening his company that supplies nursing uniforms.
“We were out of work for a month during the crisis and the problems started. I had a vertebra problem and the doctor said either change jobs or change rhythms or you will be working to pay doctors. So slowly I started this work and then added the prints to t-shirts and other products like keyring and so on. Today my workshop is all dressed in the colors and objects of Coca Cola. I have endless things in my collection”.
The rarest and most beautiful stories of acquiring some items
It's really impossible to count how many pieces this particular collection has and how rare in some cases items are hidden in his shop. Some of them even have their own, very special history and that's why they hold a special place in his heart, even though he says that he can't stand out any more than the rest.
“I have rare ones, I have old ones too. For example, I found a rare bottle by chance in Lemythos, buried outside a grocery store, and I took it. I also have signs and clocks. For example I once went to a house when I was a technician to fix something and I had to go into a loft. The grandfather who owned the house had thousands of things in the loft and among them, a 1954 Coca Cola calendar. Only one leaf is missing.
On another occasion I went to a house and a grandmother had an old clock. I told her that I want it and she replied “my son, I won't change the time. Bring me another one and catch it.” That's how it happened, I went and bought her another one and took it.”
The Coca Cola wedding and a rejected phone that got it eight years later
How great is his love for the product and how much he adores his collection, can be seen through some of his actions, such as for example that Coca Cola became part of his marriage.
“At my wedding, the decorations on my friends' tables were from Coca Cola. I made cashews out of bottles, which I taped to prevent them from being stolen and decorated them. Others are worried about their wedding, I was worried about the decorations so my Coca Cola bottles wouldn't be stolen. Also my shoes, I ordered them and they were from Coca Cola. I also brought a tie but they wouldn't let me wear it. They are obsessions and love for this thing. Even on my birthday or my holiday, if they bring me a can of Coca Cola, I will feel more satisfaction than a present.
Another very typical story has to do with this Coca Cola phone.
“I was studying in Thessaloniki and everything I found related to the product I bought. There was a phone I saw in a thrift store, but as a student I couldn't buy it. I was obsessed with that phone. I saw it every day on my way home. I went after eight years and the phone was still there. I went in and told the girl I want to buy it. He asked me 120 euros. I told her that I was giving her 50 euros because the phone had been there for many years. I convinced her a lot and bought it for 50 euros”.
Some others might have sought to contact the company that owns the rights to that particular soft drink to show them their collection, but not Marios. Because as he explains he is not pursuing something, he is doing it for his own satisfaction and his own passion.
“Once I went to a company event in Larnaca and I was buying things . My wife told the girl there that I am sick with Coca Cola. She didn't believe it and I turned on the camera from the desk and showed her my collection.
The only thing I really want and don't have is the old Coca Cola cooler that is the bottle door and it said you had to put in 10 mils. I found it, but it wasn't in such good condition and the money they were asking was a lot. So you understand, with the money they were asking for, I'm bringing it from America brand new, but I don't want it because it's not that classic Cypriot one”.
Mario's little “gold mine” is constantly growing and will continue to grow since even though he has acquired almost everything, he will surely find something that he will want to add to his collection to make it even more impressive and even more beautiful than it is today …