Right in the middle of the lockdown the sale of two well-known businesses in Pilgrim’s Rest was finalised after about a year of negotiations. While it will probably be some time before this tourist town sees a stream of visitors again, the new owners say that it will give them time to make their planned changes and learn the ropes.
For 18 years, Sharon Patterson, at the time a resident in Graskop, put her heart into growing her two adjoining businesses – Pilgrim’s Pantry and Ponieskrantz Arts and Crafts. The majority of the products sold at Ponieskrantz were manufactured on the premises by Patterson and the crafters she trained. This included pottery, stained glass and weaving.
Two years ago Patterson moved to Ballito on the KZN North Coast to open a business with her daughter. She carried on with the businesses in Pilgrim’s and the exclusive handmade products found a new market in the coastal town. Last year she, together with two partners, opened the shop Refreshed@the Gorge at the Graskop Gorge Lift Company.
The new owners of the two businesses are Lyn Esser, also a well-known local who is the pastor for the Methodist church in Sabie and Pilgrim’s Rest, and her son Bruce. Bruce had been working with his father in construction, mainly in the mining industry, for the past ten years. He explained that he had been searching for a different and more fulfilling lifestyle for a while.
“Pilgrim’s Rest is a unique place, a heritage site with a lot of history and we have noticed all the changes taking place over the last year,” said Bruce when asked why they had decided to buy a business in the town. “It makes one more feel more positive about taking the big step of doing something completely different. Stuff is happening and we want to help by being part of it.”
Bruce has an arts background, as he is qualified in graphic design. His wife Ida, who will join him in the business eventually, is qualified in textile design. Lyn herself has an interest in the arts having painted and done pottery for many years.
The old and new owners will be co-operating in that Patterson will assist the Essers as a mentor, and Ponieskrantz will continue supplying products to the existing outlets. Bruce also plans to build a strong online sales platform for unique artisanal products.