At 93, Doreen Farah still goes into the NG Farah Real Estate office that she helped found with her late husband, Nassim, in 1962.
“I just enjoy going into the office — people come in and ask me questions and I’m really quite involved,” she said. “I just love being with the people … I’m a bit slow getting around but that’s OK.”
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It’s 57 years since the Farahs opened in a small upstairs office at 343 Anzac Parade, Kingsford, and today the firm continues as a highly successful family-run business in a much-larger two-storey premises just five doors away at 353 Anzac Pde.
Mrs Farah’s sons, Glenn and Martin, are in charge, and two of her grandchildren, Stephanie and Mitchell, both work there.
The NG Farah story is a romantic one. Mrs Farah had been penpals with Nassim for four years before she finally met him when he arrived in Sydney from Lebanon in 1951.
“It was just love at first sight,” she said.
“He spoke Arabic, French, English and Spanish … he came here for a trip and he stayed.”
Initially working part-time in a real estate office in Maroubra, Nassim worked in a factory making Malvern Star bicycles in Redfern.
Mrs Farah had started her sales career as the Revlon lady in the late 1940s at David Jones in the city before running Doreen’s Fashions at The Spot in Randwick for 35 years.
“We were living in a unit and I fell pregnant with Helen, our daughter, and Nassim decided to take a part-time job in real estate,” she remembers.
“And he really enjoyed it, helping people.”
The ability to set up the business came after he won a new car in a raffle. “It was worth 1200 pounds — he said we’ll sell it and put it into the business. And that’s how we started.”
With Doreen helping Nassim as much as she could, they never looked back.
She still lives in the family home at Pagewood. “My husband said to me when he bought it: ‘Listen, darling, I love this house and I love Pagewood … I don’t want to go to Bellevue Hill or Point Piper.’
“And I’m still here.”
Of the current downturn in the market, Mrs Farah is philosophical.
“I’ve seen the market go down, and not go up, and up and up, and down again — that’s what it does,” she said.
“At the moment it’s down but give it another few months and I think it will go up a bit.
“We’ve been established for 57 years and that’s a long time to be in the business.
“And I think sometimes people feel safer to deal with a well-established business.
“There’s a lot of experience here — some of the staff have been there for over 20 or 30 years.”
Nassim died suddenly during a trip to the Gold Coast 17 years ago after earlier having heart problems. “He’d had a major heart operation and got over that,” Mrs Farah remembers.
“He said he’d had the best sleep ever … I’d got up and when I went in to make the bed he was gone.
“As his doctor said to me ‘That’s the way I would like to go — he wouldn’t have felt a thing.’ ”