The Corner Shop
NOAH has prioritised the need for sustainability – for our beneficiaries and for the organisation – and has three areas of focus for this, one being the generation of own income through our 7 social enterprise development (SED) projects which enable our beneficiaries to supplement their pension, and provide additional income for NOAH in order to reduce dependency on donors.
One of our SED projects is The Trestle Table, our second hand shop in Woodstock. Started in 2009, selling donated clothing, furniture and bric ‘n brac to the community, the shop is currently run by four residents and community members. Open five days a week, the Trestle Table generates approximately R35,000 per month.
Our presence, products and services have met a real need in the community and the demand is great. We are fortunate to have a constant supply of stock and realised last year that we need to capitalise this and expand.
Fortuitously, the run down corner shop at the end of our block came on the market, our offer to purchase was accepted and transfer is underway. What used to be a central meeting point for the community, a place of fun and safety for children and a supplier of daily needs, has become a den of iniquity and a threat to the safety and security in the area.
The plan is to renovate the property into a well-run social enterprise, offering the poorer community opportunity to purchase needed items at affordable prices, and a safe hub from which the entire community can benefit.
Upon successful renovation of the property, we would have the space and infrastructure to upscale the existing operation, enabling additional residents to benefit directly and drive real urban renewal, restoring the corner shop to its former glory and purpose, improving the safety of the area and providing a much needed service.
NOAH is about older persons but more than that, it is about them harnessing their wisdom, skills, experience, capability and capacity to make a critical contribution in the upliftment of our communities.
We have managed to secure funding for the renovation but still have a shortfall of R500,000 on the purchase price. Your contribution towards this campaign would be deeply appreciated. In return NOAH will advertise and acknowledge the contribution on the building and in all communications, including media, social media and the Annual Report.
Please read the ‘story’ of the cornershop to a deeper understanding of the value of this project…
Help Woodstock ‘oldies’ make corner-café dream come true
They sold everything from bread to Chappies bubble gum, and smelt of soap and sweets. A middle-aged neighbour ran the place, keeping a beady eye out to ensure that the local children did not steal anything.
Children would congregate on the stoep to swop toffees or Mad Max magazines, and teenagers could meet outside before setting off on a date. This was the typical corner café of inner-city Cape Town before the forced removals that began in the 1960s. More than just convenience stores, these shops were also community hubs.
In recent decades, some cafés in the poorest parts of the city have become magnets for criminals and drug dealers. But a non-government organisation in lower Woodstock has a vision for their local corner café.
They aim to restore it back into the community hub it once was, run and ruled by the local “oldies” in the area whom they serve. These older people say they desperately want to make the streets safe again, for the sake of their grandchildren.
NOAH is a non-profit organisation that works in several areas of Cape Town but is based in Regent Street in lower Woodstock, alongside the corner café it hopes to buy.
“We believe older persons are the glue in a community,” says Director Anne Dobson. “For us, working with them means more than helping to provide them with the services that keep them active and healthy. It is our way of strengthening a whole community. Our plan to buy the local corner shop project is about exactly that.”
The shop would remain a corner café, selling sweets, milk, bread and all other goods people need in a hurry. It would also become a larger version of Noah’s ‘Trestle Table’, the thrift shop on the organisation’s premises that sells clothes and household goods to community members for a song. There is also enough space inside the café also to set up a community co-op, where the local oldies could sell their produce, from samoosas and bread to carpentry. These stalls would operate on a simple, artisanal level, but the place would become a safe space where kids could congregate in the afternoons, watched over by the grandparents. This would make the surrounding streets, too, far safer.
“The shop would also give NOAH another important lens into what is going on in this community, to see in which other ways we could respond,” says Anne.
Now NOAH is urgently seeking funds to buy the property, and is asking all funders with an interest in the area to consider helping.
“For me, there is a personal pull regarding the shop,” Anne admits. “My foster-daughter Abigail came from Essex Street, just around the corner from the café. She used to sit on the pavement of the shop when she was a very little girl, and ended up coming to NOAH every day, which is how I got to know her. We had years of happiness but she faced many difficulties; she died when she was 19.
“If this community had been given her the support she needed, she might have been able to stay here safely. That would have been ideal for her.”
Gadija Abrahams, 83, lives with her daughter, son-in-law and their four children right opposite the shop. “We have to keep our kids inside these days, because it’s not safe for them to play on the streets,” she says.
“Just yesterday, I chased away a whole bunch of young troublemakers. They come from other areas and meet on the corner outside the shop, making such a huge noise at night that the old people can’t sleep. The police sometimes come to pick them up, and have sometimes found drugs on them. This has to be stopped.”
In decades past, the neighbours would sit on the stoep of the corner café in the summer, “enjoying the evening,” says Gadija. “This is the poor end of Woodstock, but we have beautiful neighbours, and it could be the same again, if NOAH buys the shop.”
Says Gadiya’s neighbour and friend, Fatgaya Allie, 62: “The other day, I could smell the dagga they were smoking. The words ‘F.. the cops,’ have been written on the street.
“All of us older people stay here with our children and young grandchildren, and we worry about them. My grandson wants to talk to these troublemakers on the street, and I have to stop him.
“For a child to go ‘off’ takes a second, and for them to come right takes a lifetime. I’ll be the happiest old lady, if NOAH can buy that shop.”