Friday, August 5, 2011

Visiting MDL Sport in Calvinia

At the foot of the Hantam Mountains, surrounded by graphic kokerbome (quivertrees), lies the heart of sheep-farming in the Northern Cape, Calvinia. During our visit it vies with its neighbour, Sutherland, for the title of the coldest town. But the people are warm, from the hearty welcome, matched by innard-warming delicious boerekos at the Hantam House, to Leon Visagie and his daughter Melissa of MDL Sport.

Opened just a year ago as an income provider for Melissa, Visagie initially didn’t expect the store to start making a profit for at least a year, “but within a month it paid her salary,” he says. Which is perhaps not surprising in a town featuring a running club, golf club, cricket club and various schools  - but no sport store.

Visagie, a former correctional services officer and farmer, in July 2010 rented the space in a side street and started stocking the store with money he got when his farm was expropriated. They are still building on stock, but he already knows what will sell. “My mark-up is probably the lowest in the industry, but while the people want to buy athletic style shoes for everyday wear, I know what they can afford.”

He is a big fan of rep Mike Wallace, who regularly visits, and his stock selection shows it.
While footwear is a big seller, his safety concerns will not allow him to indulge in stocking products for his passion - target shooting. Burglar bars on the door and windows and a gate between the customers and Melissa are signs of the times.  The old South African flag, prominently displayed, is a sign of times past.

Leon Visagie of MDL Sport in Calvinia


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