During the past few weeks, a number of new businesses opened their doors in the museum village of Pilgrim’s Rest and existing businesses worked with renewed hope and passion. This followed on the eventual awarding of tenders during 2018 after a six-year struggle.
Visitors to the Pilgrim’s Rest often express their surprise at what they find – the well-preserved history of the largest gold rush in South Africa; various activities; restaurants, pubs and street café’s; and independently owned shops that offer unique and quaint products.
Newly opened Belvedere in Down Town has introduced a novel experience for the young and a trip down memory lane for the old – black and white still movies featuring old favourites like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. The affordable price of R10 even has a free bag of piping hot popcorn thrown in!
The new owners of Clewer Store have already made a name for themselves with a new fresh look to the business and tasty home-baked pies. The proprietor, Neville Philpott, decided to move to Pilgrim’s Rest to get out of the city rat-race. “Business during December was surprisingly good – better than expected,” Philpott said. He has already created five jobs and this will increase once he gets the licence to reopen the filling station, for which he was also awarded the tender.
Scott’s Café, at the entrance to Up Town, opened its doors as a restaurant during December. What is currently on offer is however only temporary until the licence for the gin distillery on the premises is approved. They have great plans for the gin bar with a menu to match, regular live entertainment, and a course teaching people how to stoke mampoer.
Overall business owners reported that the season’s trade had been slow to start but in the end, it was either equal to or only slightly down on the year before. The delayed tender process and the businesses which closed due to the economic downturn were not the only challenges faced by the Pilgrim’s Rest community. There is still an ongoing battle against the negative and incorrect public perception that the village is “closed” after media reports about the initial tender process in 2012 which greatly reduced the number of visitors to this heritage site. This was despite the fact that the whole process was cancelled after it was found to have been grossly irregular and the museums and many businesses had been carrying on as usual since.