AFTER 35 years, the landmark Beavers, a popular 24/7 café for locals and travellers, has closed its doors.
Owned for the past 24 years by the Wilmot family, the building has been sold to an out-of-town buyer who has approached a national franchise to be the tenant.
Beavers was started in 1981 by Gavin and Delene Deenik, and went through several owners in its first decade. Delene provided a timeline on Facebook, after numerous residents and visitors familiar with Beavers started posting their lamentations and memories over news of the closure.
The Deeniks sold to the Linforths in the early 1980s, and they in turn sold it to Danny Stevens, who registered Beavers as a trademark. He sold the shop to Richard and Shane Hale, but retained the Beavers name. The Hales renamed the store Simple Simon and sold Treat Eat pies there.
Justin Wilmot told TotT the rest of the story.
“The Hales franchised the pies which were available elsewhere, like Nanaga,” Wilmot said.
“Then in 1992 my dad Keith bought Beavers and the Dulcies franchise in Port Elizabeth and we took over both in September 1992.
“Beavers was a small take-away with a single door, window and counter at that stage.”
After staff were robbed at gunpoint while locking up one night in the mid-1990s, Keith said he never wanted to close the store to avoid a repeat of that incident. Beavers became a 24/7 store, which at that time was a foreign concept.
“We expanded the store and added a whole new seating area – it quadrupled the size of the store,” Wilmot said. They also sold licences to sell Beavers pies and at one stage there were eight Beavers stores around the country, including in Sasolburg, George, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
“But it was difficult to manage – you’ve got to have passion for your product,” Wilmot said.
He praised the work of past and long-serving staff members, including Graeme Kelbrick, who managed the store for many years, and supervisor Maureen Solwandle, who has been at the store for 32 years. Wilmot’s nephew Alan Malan also managed the store for 14 years.
“We used to close the shop just for four hours on Christmas Day. No one knew where the keys were to lock up. It was a case of putting a broomstick through the door handles and climbing through a window,” Wilmot said with a chuckle.
To rather keep the shop open on Christmas, they offered staff triple time, and most took up the offer.
In addition to their famous pies, Wilmot said they probably had the busiest condom dispenser on the R72, and constantly had to replenish it.
“Our dad (Keith) loved people, and used to loved sitting and chatting over coffee at Beavers. When he died we decided as a family to sell the building.
“The people we sold it to are talking to a national franchise. I can’t say who – you know as much as I do. They will be upgrading the building.”
At one stage the Wilmots had approached Famous Brands to see if they were interested.
In September last year the family looked for someone to take over Beavers on a limited term contract, with the end date being predetermined as January 10. Karen Long accepted and took over the store for that period.
“We once tried to work out how many pies Beavers sold over 35 years. We know it got to a million pies a few years ago, but we haven’t kept track,” Wilmot mused.
“We still own the Beavers trademark and won’t allow it to die.”
Their renowned roosterbrood is already available at the Bean and Olive next door, owned by sister Jo Wilmot.