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Cape family-owned grocer shares lockdown challenges

Published Apr 24, 2020



CAPE TOWN- Small businesses across the country, even those that qualify as essential services, have felt the pinch of the national lockdown.

Despite challenges, Sir Lowry’s Grocer owner Hayder Rawoot, affectionately known as

Bhai(a Hindi term commonly used as a mark of respect when addressing older males) has a strong sense of duty towards the community and is doing his bit in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Rawoot is from the suburb of Athlone in Cape Town and travels into the town of Sir Lowry’s Pass every day to run the grocer.

“I grew up here and I grew up with the people,” said Rawoot, a popular figure within the Sir Lowry’s Pass community. His father originally purchased the premises in 1983, and Rawoot used to spend time helping his father around the shop. After his father died, he took over the family business.

Under lockdown

Rawoot says that South Africa’s nationwide 21-day lockdown, which came into effect on the 26th of March, has been challenging on the business.

The Grocer's operational hours had to be adjusted in order to comply with the lockdown regulations and as a result, the business has lost money and half of his clientele.

“I no longer get my regulars such as the passing trade: people going to and from work, the school children and housewives,” he said.

Normal business hours used to be from 10:30 to 20:00, with brief closures for prayer during lunch and again at 4pm. Now he opens much later and closes much earlier.

According to Rawoot, deliveries have come to a halt. He now has to run around in the mornings and late in the evenings to stand in long queues at the wholesalers.

Despite having a permit, Rawoot says that he is often stopped at roadblocks when he is transporting stock at night.

However, Rawoot says that he does what he has to do in order to make sure that his customers’ demands are met.

His son, Moeen states that he noticed that the people are also going through financial strain and can only afford the basic necessities such as eggs, milk, sugar, toilet rolls and chicken.

“There has been a demand in yeast and cake flour, especially because there is often a shortage of bread or the bakeries deliver the bread very late,” said Rawoot.

Continuing to serve the community

Resident and a regular customer at Sir Lowry’s Grocer, Alexander Arendse, says that he is grateful that the shop is still operating during the lockdown.

“It is such a hassle going into town [Somerset West] to bigger shops only to find empty shelves… to stand in long queues where the risk of exposure and contracting the virus is greater. However,

Bhai readily provides the community with the necessary convenience that is needed,” states Arendse.

Rawoot ensures that he and his assistant Dylan Manuel, along with his son, Moeen, who on occasion helps his father with the business, implement good hygiene practices.

“When dealing with customers, we make sure that we wash and sanitize our hands regularly,” says Rawoot. In addition to mopping the floors and wiping the countertops frequently, only a certain number of people are allowed in the shop at a time.

The shop, which is usually a lively hub of activity, filled with the young and old alike, is now noticeably quiet.

This article first appeared on MatieMedia.

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