After a varied career encompassing cigarette sales, law, farming, running a movie house, and business management and administration at executive level, Johan Piek moved to the Cape in 1999 to pursue a less pressured lifestyle.
After a time in Stellenbosch, where he grew up, attended university and worked for some time, he moved to Somerset West. Casting around for something to do, he found that The Crafters Inn was up for sale, so he promptly bought it in October 2003.
Over the next few years, the premises in Morkel’s Arcade – now Fountain Square – grew to the point where the workshop had to be moved to separate premises.
The business continued to grow and in May 2007 The Crafters Inn relocated to premises close by, in Helderberg Village Walk, which allowed the reconsolidating of the business under one roof.
“Before we moved to Helderberg Village Walk, we occupied 80m2 of retail space, but the continued growth of the business since then means we now occupy 450m2, and our turnover in that time had increased by some 3 500%. The expansion has facilitated moving the wool and haberdashery departments to a more spacious area, and storage space could be increased by 100m2.”
The growth of the business in 14 years has come about because of the customer-focussed ethos of The Crafters Inn: if a customer wants a specific item, they will move mountains to get it.
Despite the challenges the rewards are there. “It is heartening to see how our focus on customer service has resulted in long-term relationships and an increasing and loyal customer base. It is a tough business, but it is intensely rewarding, because it allows us to render a much appreciated service to the community.”
The Crafters Inn has regular costumers from all over the Western Cape, and the shop has become a cornerstone for many artists, crafters and knitters. But, the bigger the business, the greater the challenges, the most significant of which is balancing ever-increasing stock levels and increasing fixed costs with cashflow.
“People love the shop, because of our service ethic. They know that if they need something specific, they can come to us and we’ll help them get it,” Says Johan. “Many are the fathers who have walked into the shop on a Saturday morning with a worried frown and said ‘my son has a school project, and it must be finished by Monday, and I need some’.”
A significant contributor to the loyal customer base of The Crafters Inn is the annual Spring sale, of which the 10th will take place soon. Stefani, Johan’s daughter and manageress of The Crafters Inn, explains: “We hold the event in late Spring, and we try to keep the date a secret, because once it gets out, we see a dip in sales, as some of our regular customers anticipate the upcoming bargains.”
The purpose of the annual Spring sale is twofold: to thank the thousands of loyal customers of The Crafters Inn for their continued support, and also to attract new customers. “It’s the kind of event where people buy something because it is on sale, knowing that if they do not need it right now, they will eventually use it.”