There are all sorts of amazing places to visit, eat and shop in the Lowveldt, but this Easter I found one where you would least expect to find it, in the Thomson Building & General store at the bottom of Main Street, Sabie, close to the bridge.
Now, what you might ask, would be interesting about a hardware store, unless you’re into tools, nails, and assorted other building supplies? Well, pop in when you’re next down there and you will be amazed. Not only is this a hardware store in the old fashioned sense of the word, which in itself is a delight, but there are also well-stocked gift and craft sections, and a delightful little coffee shop.
But even more amazing is the decor, which is a cornucopia of vintage and antique items adorning walls, hanging from the rafters and lining the tops of shelves throughout the entire place. From the walkway into the shop, lined with old motorbikes, bicycles, oak barrels (for sale) and train plates, to the store’s entrance complete with old shop signs, sewing machines, irons, and oil tins, there’s antiquity everywhere.
The domestic irons cover everything from the very oldest type to the more recent and are displayed, tower-like alongside sewing machines of all ages, and a complete, or near complete, wall of motor oil tins.
Into the store, the hardware goods are neatly and cleverly displayed as in shops of yesteryear. More shop signs cover the high walls on either side, and old karoo windmill blades are mounted on the ceiling in place of fans.
A walk up the beautifully crafted central staircase, manufactured from local materials, there is a well-stocked garden section and a further staircase takes you to the gift and craft section, alongside the delight of a coffee shop.
The display areas of the top floor surround an open, central point from which two old vehicles, beautifully restored, hang over the hardware store below. Everywhere the eye looks there’s an abundance of things catching the eye, and dating back as far as the gold rush days of the town’s origins.
For crafters, there’s everything you can imagine, or want, from bunting, letters, paints, ribbons, paper, cotton, and scrapbooking materials, all decorated with a huge collection old kitchen tins lining the top of the shelves. An antique set of wooden library card drawers hold a variety of other notions and materials. An old vinyl record collection lies in vintage suitcases, while a piano, cheekily painted in blue and pink, stands at the entrance to the coffee shop.
The gifts comprise a huge variety of teas, coffees, old fashioned sweets, and biscuits, as well as soaps, bath salts, stuffed toys, shoes, slippers, and clothing. Wrapping materials are also thoughtfully provided, along with gift cards and other decorative notions.
And it doesn’t end there. The coffee shop (which had yet to be opened when I visited), with its view of the store below, boasts a working vintage motorcar ride for children, an old spinning wheel and several antique butter churns, paddles, and molds. Framed spice jars and a collection of old biscuit tins hang from the walls. Meals, from the traditional Afrikaans menu, will be served on enamel dishes, to replicate the days of old.
An amazing amount of thought has gone into the creation of this treasure trove, with an eye for detail that leaves me agog. Take the time when you’re in town to pay it a visit and, like me, I’m sure you’ll come away astonished at the experience.
Thomson’s Sabie Hardware Store, 217 Main St, Sabie, 1260
Tel: 013 764 2546