Sleuthing the back streets of this Western Cape town uncovers treasures aplenty. We headed out to Somerset West to discover a few must-visit places…
Words: Nancy Richards
‘Trained by self’ is how Marida Steyn describes her work – although what she really believes is that flowers train a florist. A natural in every sense, she likes to let the plant life do the talking because “flowers are all about emotion”. The rainbow of chatty blooms and armfuls of fragrant garden greenery in her little studio shop in Chelsea Village seem to be saying ‘pick me, pick me’ – and she does as she walks among them, tweaking and flouncing their lovely heads. She gets her material locally, discouraging imports unless her clients are absolutely set on something. Her joy is to give her brides the blooming best for their buck, and in rare quiet times she gives morning workshops.
It’s all action at The Store in Andries Pretorius Street. Each in their separate ‘departments’, Helen Joubert is serving coffee, Caroline Bradshaw is altering and renting wedding dresses, Tatyana Klein and Stephanie Hendriksz are sorting and labelling rails full of second-hand clothes, shoes and toys. It started about five years ago when all four started trading from Caroline’s house. Since then they’ve moved into one long house which is filled to bursting with designer and not-so-designer stuff. Clients come from all over, they’re having an in-house fashion show on 26 April and every October they host a three-day charity event selling ‘last season’ stock for a song. Last year they raised R20 000 for Bizweni Centre for disabled children.
She’s an artist herself, so curator Diane Harper is as happy as Larry in this light, airy art gallery in Bright Street. Since she joined last year, she’s hosted exhibitions by big names like Willie Bester and Esther Mahlangu, so there’s nothing small about her planning, which is to have a new themed show every 6-8 weeks. The ‘art’ she says is finding a balance between ‘investment’ and ‘accessible’ work. With an affinity for ceramics, she had some porcelain gems on display when we popped in, but she was working on a group show, Of Monuments and Men, for April. The gallery feeds into the Imibala Trust where art is used to transform the lives of children.
You don’t expect to get lemon meringue and fresh figs in the heart of industria – but, hey, everything about this yummy destination is unexpected. It started with Sandra and Alwyn de Villiers’ compulsive collecting habits – hence the extraordinary displays of rocking horses, bicycles, baskets, street signs and car parts in what was once a double-volume mechanics workshop. More recently, daughters Natasha and Melissa have consolidated it into a shabby chic store with a gourmet kitchen – upgraded by son Morné. A family affair of note. So come here for a gourmet rocket salad – but expect to rub shoulders with location and props hunters from the Cape Town film studios up the road. And just for fancy-dress lovers, the De Villiers also own Wonderland, the adjoining costume hire store.
Erica Meyer used to be a scrap-metal dealer until the love of old stuff got the better of her and she opened a junk shop in Gordon’s Bay. Three years ago she moved to Somerset West and took ‘junk’ to another level. Walk through the unassuming front door of The Shed in St James Street, and you are transported into a second-hand Mecca. Erica’s own passion is for reconstructed furniture made from reclaimed timber out in the backyard, by her partner, woodworking wizard Rian Oliver. But she rents the warren of alcoves to other ‘traders’, each of whom deals in what she calls “vintage jewels” from dolls and LPs to china, suitcases and other irresistible tat.
Once a top-flight computer software man, Eric van Heerden’s metamorphosis into brew master has been gently meteoric. It started as a hobby and grew into a near-obsession during a year in the States spent among the Carolina BrewMasters home-brew club where he honed his hobby into an art. Now he’s in this rambling red-brick building, once a Victorian dynamite factory, where he and his small team brew up to 4 000 litres of beer a month in 45 different styles. Enjoy them in the taproom, with tasting trays of four of any of the 17 beers available at any one time. There’s no fancy bar but, if you’re a beer connoisseur, that won’t matter.