Durban cobbler to close shop after 99 years
Durban - It is an end of an era for a Durban shoe repair shop that will close after 99 years of being in business.
Natvai 'Bhikhoo' Harie, a third-generation owner of HD Kalidas & Co in the Durban CBD, said it was a tough decision to make but he believed it was the right time to retire.
Harie, now 79, said the business was named after his grandfather and his grandfather's brother.
His grandfather's name was Haribhai and his uncle Dhanjeebhai. Their surname was Kalidas.
Harie used his father’s first name as his surname.
"My grandfather came from India as a shoe repairman. He opened HD Kalidas Shoe Repairs in 1922 opposite the Grey Street Mosque."
Harie's father, who was a teenager, then arrived from India and joined the business in 1946.
Harie, the eldest of nine siblings, said he completed high school in 1961 and studied medicine for three years.
"In my third year, when I was 25, my dad fell ill, and I had to leave varsity to run the business. I have been running it ever since."
Harie, of Reservoir Hills, said after 70 years in Grey Street, the business relocated to Queen Street in February 1992. At that stage, the business started selling shoes.
"It was a bigger shop, and we did family footwear and repairs. This worked out well for us."
In 2008, due to his age, Harie decided to downsize and moved to another shop in the same building.
"I decided to do shoe and bag repairs. I had become known as 'the specialist shop' and had built loyal customers. They had confidence in me, and they were from areas including northern Zululand, the south coast, and even Pietermaritzburg."
He said the most expensive shoe he repaired was R12 000.
The business operated from Monday to Saturday, and his wife, Usha, helped out when she could.
Harie said the CBD had changed and was now crowded, dangerous, dirty and unsafe.
"Back in the day, we could walk in town even after 5pm, but over the past 20 years, it has deteriorated. There have been numerous robberies, especially in Queen Street. I was robbed four times at gunpoint. I was a bit fearful, but I had a passion for what I did, and it was too early to retire.
"Now, having to leave my clients is definitely heartbreaking, but I have to do what's best for me and my family. Usha and I both decided that I would retire at 80 to spend time with our children and grandchildren."
He said his three daughters were also concerned about his health and safety, especially at his age, and they wanted him to call it a day.
The couple contracted Covid-19 in July, and the shop was closed for two months.
"The time away from work made us realise that our health was of paramount importance."
He said he thought of passing the business to his daughters, but they were busy with their careers and that to teach the trade someone new, would take years.
The business will officially close in mid-January.