Business Boomers

It’s boom time or bust. Some of Melkbosstrand’s oldest businesses share the secret of their success with

Ricky and Jason Douglas.

Ricky and Jason Douglas.

Café Orca
“We started with 12 tables in ’97,” Ricky Douglas, who owns Café Orca with his brother Jason, says. The seafood restaurant now has 24 tables and it is a fixture in many people’s lives. “You know, guys phone from the UK or Switzerland to book a table here,” Ricky says. “They want their first meal to be here.”

The brothers speak interchangeably, as if they’re on the same page. Both men say at different times, “The secret is reinventing yourself.” Later on Jason adds, “You can’t get people to run your business. You have to be here all the time. You’ve got to love what you do. I do.

‘Don’t take your eye off the ball’
“Initially the bank said we wouldn’t make it. The bank manager lived in Melkbos. We went to him for an overdraft, but did not get it.” It’s a case of business lessons learnt and internalised. “You must never let people pull you down. Never worry about what other people are doing. Worry about what you are doing. Don’t take your eye off the ball,” Jason says.

The sports terminology is apt. The brothers are big Manchester United fans. They’re also family people, and this is important. Jason says, “Very important – your family must be 100% behind you because negativity at home translates into negativity at work.” A pause and then a final word of advice. “Take small steps. People are scared of taking small steps. People always want to take big steps.”

Angie Uys

Angie Uys: “Dedicated to pleasing.”

The Farmyard Farmstall (16 Years)
“We’re here because I’m so dedicated to trying to please,” laughs Angie Uys, who owns The Farmyard with her husband Martin. “It was tough at the beginning. But I had decided to make it work.” There are other ingredients to their success story. Angie explains that the Farmyard uses no preservatives and “bake completely manually. They have stayed with the same suppliers they had 16 years ago. They only use certain butcheries and the jams are made by a lady who is in her late 70s and who still picks her own fruit.

The haberdashery shop (16 Years)

Mary Poppe: Work hard to keep the aeroplane up.

Mary Poppe: Work hard to keep the aeroplane up.

The little haberdashery shop in the Palm Centre is choc-a-bloc with goods and customers. “What’s your secret?” asks when Mary Poppe gets a moment between measuring out lengths of material and ringing up purchases. “If you care about people, they care about you,” she answers with a broad smile. “You must work hard to keep the aeroplane up. If you don’t, it will come down.”

In Mary’s case the hard work is combined with wisdom. She says, “You must also have a variety of things in the shop, so that if people leave, they leave with something.” Silent witnesses to this wisdom are the exclusive textiles, mounds of home-made rusks, buttons, hand-made cards and a multitude of other delights. What Mary omitted saying is that she gets to know her customers. Coming to aunt Mary’s shop is like coming home – and this is the real secret behind her success.

Jeanette Storar: A foundation few can equal.

Jeanette Storar: A unique foundation.

Storar’s (15 Years)
“A lot of hard work,” Jeanette Storar answers when asked what her success recipe is. But there’s much more to her story. Storar’s is built on Jeanette’s love of beautiful old things that tell stories. In Jeanette’s case this appreciation is coupled with a practical foundation few people can equal. She recounts that she spent her formative years with her grandparents, a dressmaker and an antique doctor.

“I had a wonderful childhood,” Jeanette says fondly. “My gran made wedding gowns and wedding cakes. My grandfather was an antique doctor and cabinet maker. You could always find me at my gran’s old sewing machine or in the orchard under a tree. By the time I was five I did not want to go to school!” As an adult Jeanette added to this foundation by doing upholstery for Biggie Best and learning the art of millinery. It is this knowledge that enabled her to transform her initial small business into a veritable Aladdin’s Cave.

Maria Jahn: "You have to earn respect."

Maria Jahn: “Respect is earned.”

Artideli (15 Years)
The Artideli’s owner, Maria Jahn, has suprising views on what makes a good restaurateur. “I feel very strongly that you should be humble. I never take my clients’ support for granted. Respect is earned, not a given.” The Artideli opened on the day that the Birkenhead Shopping Centre did. “It was 28 October 2001,” Maria says without missing a beat.

She has since then moved into a bigger shop in the centre, which she painted apple green and cherry red. This cheerful space is filled with savory and sweet treats and paintings by local artist Chris Cloete. Portuguese music plays softly in the background. “It’s a community thing. I create jobs. It’s about these people,” Maria says passionately and points toward the women working behind the counter.

Etienne Bulcke and company. Look for the big man!

Etienne Bulcke and company. (He’s the big man!)

O’ Tool Hire (10 Years)
“Hard work, hands on,” is how Etienne Bulcke sums up the secret of his success. O’ Tool Hire celebrated its 10th year in the business this past Friday. The previous day was month end, and that meant an especially long day of work. “I will be lucky if I can walk out of here by 9 0’ clock tonight,” he said unruffled. No stranger to long hours, he can be found at work here in 6th Avenue from 5 am on weekdays.



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