Rotorua's Niyazi Gunaydin has sold his popular Eat Streat staple Cafe Ephesus after 15 years of ownership.

Gunaydin started at Cafe Ephesus as a chef when he moved to New Zealand in 1999, before taking over as owner in 2003.

He has made New Zealand his home and is a well known character on Eat Streat, always smiling and willing to chat with passersby.

He said he sold the business to allow more time for himself.

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"I bought it because I wanted my own place. I'm selling now because this is a 24/7 job, not much life and always working. Fifteen years is a long time and it's only me, not working by myself, but I do a lot of things and I want some time for myself."

At present, Gunaydin is in Turkey visiting family, but he intends to return - he was made a New Zealand citizen in 2012.

"I always say New Zealand is my home, that is where I have made everything. I haven't decided yet what I will do when I get back."

He said Eat Streat had changed a lot in his time working there and the thing he would miss most was the people.

"The changes to Eat Streat look nice, people like it and the atmosphere is great. I'll miss all the people, every day I would go to work - I always talk to people, they always talk to me. It's the best place to go."

New owner of the building that was formerly Cafe Ephesus, Lucky Gulati. Photo / Stephen Parker
New owner of the building that was formerly Cafe Ephesus, Lucky Gulati. Photo / Stephen Parker

Mac's Steakhouse owner Lucky Gulati has bought the cafe with his brother-in-law and the pair have converted it to Holy Smoke. It opened last Saturday .

He said the restaurant had a new name, new menu and new look but there was still more to do.

Gulati said Eat Streat was a desirable location.

"Every tourist and even locals are down in Eat Streat.

"Even in the winter it's not as quiet as it used to be."