Landmark bookstore on the brink of closure

Cafdas Bradley Jones in the organisations Claremont bookstore.

Covid-19 threatens to write the final chapter for a landmark second-hand bookstore in Claremont that helps to change lives on the Cape Flats.

The Cape Flats Development Association (CAFDA) bookstore is in danger of closing at the end of August.

Cafda opened the bookstore in Wynberg in 1961, to raise money for its social-welfare projects.

The store moved to Ralph Street, in Claremont, in 1967, to Warwick Street in the 1970s and then to the Werdmuller Centre from the early 1980s until 2010, when it moved to its current premises at Cavendish Close in Warwick Street.

Cafda trading manager Bradley Jones says the store’s future is now uncertain.

“Even though the landlords have allowed us to pay subsidised rent for the hard lockdown, now that we have reopened at the beginning of June, we have to try and make up for the lost revenue, to sustain the bookshop and the organisation.”

According to him, the Claremont bookstore, along with another in Sea Point and a merchandise store in Retreat, support feeding schemes in Schaapkraal and Ottery; a junior resource centre programme; various workshops on parenting, TB and HIV, job readiness and skills training; agriculture programmes; and more.

The loss of income from the three enterprises led to retrenchments and staff being placed on short time.

“This means that employees work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and only get paid for those days,” Mr Jones said.

Before the lockdown, the stores had been well supported by the community as well as book dealers from as far as Gauteng, Wellington and Kleinmond, he said.

But now the stores were battling to pay rent, utilities and salaries, he said, and to survive they needed donations of books, furniture, appliances and clothing – and customers to buy them – and any form of financial assistance. “A donation of a book you no longer need can add value to another person’s education and knowledge. Unwanted clothing or appliances can be of use to an underprivileged person,” he said.

Dr Margaret Elsworth, 90, who has been involved with the Cafda non-profit since 1946 and volunteered at the bookshop for the past 20 years, said it would be tragic if the store closed.

“The bookstore was not only serving Cafda in raising funds, it was serving the public who could not afford books at a book retailer,” she said.

Long-time Cafda Claremont bookstore customer, Martin Lochnor, 45, was 17 when he visited the store for the first time. He has bought many second-hand books from it since then.

“I didn’t have much of an interest in reading, though I took a book out called Teach Yourself Poetry by John Hartley Williams and Matthew Sweeney, and it inspired me to publish my own book called Decent World, in 2014.”

Mr Lochnor said he felt “panicked” by the thought of the bookstore closing.

“I do hope that it can continue, if not at that place, maybe another venue in the community.”

Cafda marked its 76th anniversary on Friday June 19, and its CEO, Peter Cato, said: “This is the most challenging time we find ourselves in, and we again appeal to the generosity of individuals and companies for support.”

The Claremont Cafda bookstore is running a Lockdown Kidz artwork competition for children up to the age of 15. Participants buy a R40 picture frame for their art which they then donate back to the store. The competition is for original artwork only.

There are R500, R250 and R100 bookshop vouchers for the first, second and third prizes.

The closing date is Friday July 31 and the winners will be announced on Thursday August 6.

Call 074 194 9973, email tradingmanager@cafda.co.za or visit https://cafda.co.za/ to find out more about supporting the bookstore.