By Mark Preston-Whyte
For years, I have known Tweedie Junction as a general dealer and petrol station, and usually just pass it travelling somewhere else.
Recently, I saw a group of cars there, outside a spruced-up building. I was pleasantly surprised to find a coffee shop cum restaurant and also a must-visit craft centre of seven shops.
Lynne Garbutt and Isabel Verwey bought the original home and wrought-iron workshop there in 2016. With long-time friend and now business partner Debbie Seegers, they renovated the old workshop, built a kitchen and started the coffee shop.
Debbie is passionate about the shop, Full of Beans Cafe which she runs full-time. “We started from scratch. The main intention was to look after locals, be consistent and offer a wonderful service,” she says, crediting her “amazing” staff with helping to make the shop a success.
Debbie explains that many young visitors come over weekends, but during the week her niche market is older, retired folk, from Howick. “They sit on the deck in a quiet environment, have tea, maybe just read a book, watch the birds being fed, unwind and have a mini break.”
Lynne and Debbie both agree that the coffee shop is largely for people who want a place to sit and chat in a pleasant environment.
“The shop offers teas and cakes, breakfast, lunches, specials, soup in winter, waffles, natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and muesli. Our burgers are scrumptious,” Debbie says.
Lynne and Isabel decided to renovate the outer building. Their intention was to have shops that complement each other and are owner-run.
All fired up
Barbara Magrath, who runs Dragonfire Beads, opened the first shop. She came to lampworking late in life. This is an unusual trade developed in Venice and was a secret skill for hundreds of years. The raw glass is still supplied, mainly from Italy, in different coloured glass rods.
You hold a stainless steel mandrel in your left hand, the rod in your right hand and melt the glass at 800°C using a hot gas and oxygen-enhanced flame. The glass-base bead is formed on the stainless steel mandrel. Other colours are added to form exquisite designs, the only limiting factor being imagination and skill.
Barbara learnt the art from Elizabeth Rowe in Durban, who was trained in Italy. She practised the craft for three years before giving up her day job and taking up lampworking full-time. From small beginnings, she now has a trained assistant and is also helped by her daughter, Ciara Cassidy, and granddaughter, Courtney Roos.
Both women claim to be inexperienced, but on watching them effortlessly producing base beads, I think they are being rather humble.
Barbara says: “My passion is teaching. I offer ‘taster’ lessons and follow-up classes, and I am constantly learning to do new things. People come with such innovative ideas. Most of the beads we make are made up into jewellery, but we sell a lot of loose beads.”
Ingrid Kember’s was also one of the first shops in the centre – Inkys Mosaic, which started in Hillcrest a number of years ago. She was originally an ICU nurse, a very demanding, people-oriented job. She took up mosaics to de-stress and found that she had a passion for it.
Typical of a nurse’s personality, she enjoys helping people and teaching mosaicing in particular, which is often a therapeutic activity.
At the junction, she conducts classes for three to 103-year-olds, as long as students are willing and interested.
People can book for a two- to three-hour class and she has all the necessary tools and mosaics. Students choose to do what they want in her classes. I watched a student producing a beautiful Harley Davidson mosaic under Ingrid’s watchful eye.
Ingrid also does commissions, “including table tops, signage, shower walls and floors, really anything that can be mosaiced.” (I did see a beautiful, imaginative bench that she decorated at the Nottingham Road Junction.)
Ingrid recently mosaiced a floor at a church in Pietermaritzburg and she gets commissions for buildings all over KZN.
The wood is cut at Howick’s Sunfield Home for the mentally challenged, where she conducts classes there on Thursdays. The finished work is sold at fairs, where good prices are obtained, helping to fund the home. There is a laser cutter she supports in Mpophomeni, too, to do her cut-outs thereby helping locals.
She also teaches at Africa Spirit, an NGO in Howick, where local women are taught empowerment skills.
Her biggest seller is hand-made mosaic kits and she is in the process of setting up a mobile Inkys’ service doing private lessons in people’s homes or in a venue of their choice, as well as delivering to schools and other customers.
Caitlin Gilson owns and runs The House of Heart Emporium craft shop.
She says: “I support local artists, crafts people and artisans, largely from KwaZulu-Natal, nothing from China, and I also try to stock as many re-purposed items as possible. The general ethos is based on reduce, re-use, recycle. Stallholders are only charged a commission on what is sold. They are not responsible for rent and I get new people and stock all the time.”
There are recycled and upcycled items. I bought an old, very serviceable nut cracker.
Local clothing designers and NGOs based between Howick and Pietermaritzburg display their stock. Of the 52 contributors, these include Awe, a group of farm women making dresses near Eston. There are a number of jewellery designers and silversmiths displaying work as well.
Roy Reid, in his late 80s, makes World War I and II hand-painted aircraft out of wood, which are always of interest to male customers, young and old.
I noticed Pura Vida’s natural body and bath products, tested on family and friends, not animals! There are creams to help soothe rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other ailments, as well as a new mother and baby range. Simply Underberg is a range of natural bath products and Caitlin stocks their soaps.
Angela Webster makes beautiful porcelain and ceramic jewellery from broken china and porcelain.
Cob and Pickle, based in Merrivale, makes wooden items like games such as dominoes, Jenga and noughts and crosses, as well as wooden boards, picture frames and crates from used, wooden pallets. A great form of recycling.
Temba Ndaba, a local craftsman from the informal settlement located about a kilometre from the shop, collects old wood (usually syringa, an alien species) from the Howick dump and makes beautiful platters and African utensils. He recently had an order from a film crew to use his items in one of its productions.
Afribag is a local NGO that makes non-plastic bags to pack your fruit and veggie purchases in.
Absolutely Africa has about 40 beaders in the Zululand region who sell items here.
Coral Tree bags and aprons come from Mozambique, organised by a woman who originally came from Pietermaritzburg, using a traditional fabric called Capulana that’s lined with recycled rice bags (perfect for the beach).
In the back of the shop is an area devoted to vintage finds, kitchenalia and collectables. There is something for everybody here. A great place to buy a gift.
Caitlin is so environmentally conscious she refuses to have business cards. She cuts printer paper on which she writes her contact details.
Denise Beuke owns and runs the Denise Beuke Art Gallery, the Dizzy Lemon Deli and, with her partners, the Wicked Silver.
She has been painting for 20 years, is passionate about nature and her paintings are a reflection of this. She specialises in nature, animals and pet portraits.
Denise gets commissions whereby people send her photos of pets and animals. “My job is to bring out the character of the animal, the painting must talk to me and the owners, otherwise it is not finished”.
She paints in her gallery and exhibits there, as well as in the deli.
Here she supports local small businesses and home industries selling jams, marmalades and preserves, as well as frozen foods and home-made ice creams. Rusks, a variety of homemade biscuits and sweets welcome you into her deli.
Denise’s Wicked Silver nature-style sterling silver jewellery sells in the Dragonfire Beads shop.
Christine Gelder runs the John Buck branded leather shop.
She says: “I live in Hillcrest with husband, Scott. We have a factory in Alverstone, which uses locally sourced leather and employs local seamstresses.”
Scott is the designer of the high-quality leather goods, which include wallets, shoes, belts, bags, jackets, nappy bags, out of laminated fabric or leather, wine coolers, six-pack holders, laptop bags, pouches, duffle and travel bags.
They also sell a range of leather goods branded Emily Louise, their daughter’s name.
Vyonne de Jager runs the Back in Time antique shop.
Sourcing and selling
For 20 years she grew her premises at Howick Falls into a local landmark. She sold the property last year, but in retirement found it very hard to give up her first love of sourcing and selling. Originally, all antique shops were more high-end, but she enjoys vintage bric-a-brac.
She met Lynne and opened up her small shop, which she is hoping to expand to include everything from small antiques and collectables to furniture and outdoor vintage finds.
She has sourced for many years and has a phenomenal collection stored on her farm that will slowly be brought into her new shop. I suspect the bronze statues are far more valuable than her asking price, but her feeling is, let somebody else enjoy them now.
“This is a fun shop. Just come, scratch around, enjoy yourself and maybe you will find a little treasure,” says Vyonne.
This article would not be complete without mention of the old general dealer and filling station.
Abdool and Firoza Moola married in 1973 and took over the business from Firoza’s father. At first it was a local supermarket, but with growing competition and the advent of the Midlands Meander they converted it into something different, an “everything shop”, a name given by admiring locals.
Firoza is especially proud of her enamelware. “The best range in the whole of KZN,” she claims. “I also carry cast iron pots, kitchen goods, crockery and outdoor equipment like tents, packs and fishing rods. I get people from Howick retirement villages, Hillcrest, Durban, Ballito, even overseas. I love people’s surprise when they find just what they want here,” she says.
You can easily lose yourself for hours at the Tweedie Junction, exploring the “everything” and adjacent craft shops, capping it all off with a light meal or coffee. I have discovered a jewel in the Midlands.