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Local support has kept Makers Landing afloat

TGIFOOD

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Local support has kept Makers Landing afloat

Ukhamba Beerworx on the upper level has an outside deck for brews, brus and views. (Photo: Supplied)

Vinyl fairs and Indian street food, kids’ cooking classes and food show location; there’s a lot going on at Makers Landing, despite the paucity of passenger ship traffic.

The location of Makers Landing alongside the cruise terminal at Cape Town Harbour was – is – part of a plan to offer passengers an experience of South Africa upon arrival. But while the ships wait in the Covid wings, business continues.

We can all agree things are a bit of a mess right now, in the travel milieu. A bit of an F5 tornado on the Fujita Scale. I’ll save you the trouble: that’s the biggest, strongest, longest and hardest a tornado can be. It would be so nice if this is as bad as it gets but realistically (as opposed to pessimistically) it can always get worse. Although even if a tornado is bigger etc it still only gets an F5 rating, so there is that.

In general, these lines from What’s Up? by Four Non Blondes are on repeat in my head:

And so I wake in the morning and I step outside

And I take a deep breath and I get real high

And I scream from the top of my lungs

What’s going on?

Having first been there when it was a building site, I’ve continued to have a keen interest in what’s going on at Makers Landing. It was built into the Cruise Terminal at Cape Town Harbour, and opened in December 2020. 

“The location was the next phase of an overarching plan by the V&A Waterfront to develop the Cape Town Cruise Terminal area with a view to offer cruise passengers the experience of an overall state-of-the-art facility for arriving in Cape Town,” said Alex Kabalin, V&A Waterfront Retail Executive.

“It was also viewed in keeping with Cape Town’s historical roots as a Tavern of the Seas as well as being a proudly South African food incubator that champions small business development and facilitates skills sharing between credible food experts and budding entrepreneurs.”

Said Hannerie Visser, Lead Curator, Makers Landing: “We opened Makers Landing in December last year when we already recognised that there would not be any cruises for a while. At the outset we were aware of the impact of not having cruises and decided to proceed with opening the space as a food hub for locals, which was always the primary objective. The cruise trade would always be the cherry on top.”

Anything can happen in the three days between writing and publication but it feels safe to say international cruises are currently suspended for the season while the local cruise schedule/programme is still on the cards with MSC cruises due to visit Cape Town from January to April 2022.

“Given the seasonality of the cruise industry, programming encourages year-round activity to attract locals into the space. The facility is walking distance from the Waterfront’s Silo District, attracting footfall from within the Waterfront, as well as those who work in the Port of Cape Town harbour,” added Kabalin.

“Part of the programming drawing footfall has been opening up the kitchen to the local food community through weekend cooking classes for children, for example; introducing the permanent presence of music and entertainment programme on weekends; and an extensive marketing programme for the destination to market the South African flavours and culture to be experienced there,” said Visser. “We have also seen a positive response from locals going out of their way to support our food incubatees and tenants with whom they have built relationships before they became part of Makers Landing.”

Makers Landing was primarily built as a food incubator with the majority of the space dedicated to maker spaces and production facilities, with a smaller component of retail trade consisting of eatery pods, restaurants and the makers’ retail elements. The space would always serve our local community first, explained Visser.

Tartlets from Sweet As Pie, one of the incubatees at Makers Landing. (Photo: Supplied)

The businesses benefit significantly from mentorship, training and affordable access to a licensed commercial kitchen space. The focus is on laying solid business foundations, providing entrepreneurs with tools for success, and working purposefully towards their business goals.

The incubator programme has impressive stats, with three incubatees so far having set up permanent stores, job creation with new hires, and massive percentage increases in sales, from 200% to 5,000%. Yes, you can have more than 100%; that refers to finite capacity. I looked it up on Basic Math & Algebra for Dummies.

“Food is a communal experience, it cannot be done in isolation,” said incubatee Jane Nshuti, of Tamu by Jane. “I had no idea how much I possessed within when it came to pushing my agenda of taking African food to the world, until I joined the Makers Landing community. This place will expose all the strength you didn’t even know you had.”

Faieez ‘everyone knows me as Fuzzy’ Alexander makes a winning (literally) koesister. (Photo: Supplied)

The incubator programme at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront has been instrumental in developing his business years ahead of what the trial and error of real-world learning accomplishes, said Lester Adams of Slow & Low. “The resources and wealth of professional experience at hand is one of the biggest food and business think tanks that exists in South Africa. An invaluable experience and a wonderful community to be part of.”

Nafeesa Arenas of Wrapper Co said she is “so grateful to be afforded mentorship by professionals that will help me grow as a person while I upscale my business. 

“Makers Landing is all about sharing with one another and we don’t just share food. We share life experiences, we share space, and our knowledge with one another. It’s challenging but it’s incredible, and it’s so amazing. And the best part is that you are surrounded daily by people with common goals, which is very important and this will ultimately make it easier for you to reach your end game.”

‘Makers Landing is all about sharing with one another and we don’t just share food. We share life experiences, we share space, and our knowledge with one another.’ Nafeesa Arendse, Wrapper Co (Photo: Supplied)

One of the regular events that has been drawing a perhaps new and different clientele to Makers Landing has been the monthly vinyl fairs. These traders with their crates of old and new records are my people, and the fairs have been well supported over the past few winter months. When I was there, I noticed some of the tenants had changed, or apparently left.

“We are following the trend of businesses across the precinct where the reality is that some businesses will always trade better than others and that naturally some businesses will not survive, combined with businesses that pivoted to alternative models during the last two years,” said Visser. “Hiring a retail space in a food market does not make sense if a business moves its focus towards wholesale and production.

“Where tenants have left, the spaces have been re-let to our incubatees.”

At the same time, a big wall went up, effectively halving the retail space. “They’re going to film MasterChef there”, one of my dealers informed me. This has turned out to be a massive boost for Makers Landing.

After a two-month MasterChef SA shoot, Makers Landing is back to its normal space. (Photo: Supplied)

“Part of our objective at Makers Landing was to play an integral role in the larger South Africa food community. Being able to be the home of the new season of Masterchef South Africa helped us to not only introduce the space to some of South Africa’s most influential chefs, food personalities and food enthusiasts, it also boosted the economy of our little neighbourhood,” said Visser.

“Having 140 crew members on site for more than two months most definitely had a positive impact on businesses. M-Net and Homebrew Productions also committed their entire catering budget to Makers Landing tenants, which was a phenomenal act of support for small local businesses.”

That there literally just gave me goosebumps, even though I already knew this from my set visit (with story to follow when the embargo lifts). I think that is pretty flipping awesome.

I also happened to be there the day after a massive grey vessel docked. Visser recalled: “Worth noting beyond the presence of cruise ships and the likes of MasterChef – and a positive experience of what else can happen – was the visit by the US Navy vessel USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams in September for undergoing two weeks of maintenance in the Cruise Terminal. Over 100 crew got to experience the hospitality and food offering at Makers Landing. It was a much-needed boost to the morale of our tenants. As commercial shipping normalises more of this will be a feature alongside cruise shipping visits.”

The message is positive but do not for one moment think it’s been all plain sailing. It’s been anything but for the hospitality industry. “I guess opening a restaurant when other restaurants were closing down due to a pandemic was a big risk,” admitted Pitso Chauke, owner of Pitso’s Kitchen. “We overcame the fears when we saw the support from our local community. Makers Landing will be the coolest spot in Cape Town in 2022,” he predicts.

It might not be widely known, but the Waterfront has, throughout the pandemic, been instrumental in supporting businesses with ongoing rental relief and lessening the burden, which was ramped up during the harder winter months during the third wave. “The partnership with the Jobs Fund also enables the V&A Waterfront to offer additional relief measures for tenants across Makers Landing. And now again, as we enter the fourth wave, the Waterfront has ensured that it is providing tenants as much relief from rental obligations as possible,” said Visser.

“Despite it being the most challenging year for the food and tourism industry we are so grateful for the opportunities afforded to us while being a tenant at Makers Landing. The incubator kitchen is a dream to work in, it’s equipped with absolutely everything you need which makes prep easier.,” said Ashleigh Frans, co-owner Side Wing.

“Our favourite part of being part of Makers Landing is our neighbouring tenants. Not only have we formed new friendships but it’s opened up opportunities for collaborations. It’s a pity we weren’t able to see the space in its true potential yet but we sure are hopeful for the future in the space.”

The year that was 2020 was a difficult one for everyone but small businesses suffered the brunt of it, said Hitesh Panchal, owner of Kapoochka, which makes paani puri, an Indian street food snack, with flavours inspired by cuisines around the world – prawn, chicken or mushroom stuffed into the shell before being topped with cheese.

Ghowa Philander from Kapoochka serving paani puri. (Photo: Supplied)

“We were presented with the opportunity to start our own food business by the V&A Waterfront. We, as a family, had no idea what to expect but decided to take a leap of faith. Starting our own business has taught us how to adapt, grow and bloom in adversity.

“Makers Landing has been a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. It has provided so many people like myself the opportunity to grow their passion into a successful business,” he said.

“It has taught me that growth happens outside of my comfort zone and I am constantly inspired to work harder to perfect my craft. Kapoochka, although only being around for a year, has already outgrown our little pop up station and will be moving into a bigger space. We are hopeful for the future of Makers Landing and believe that all tenants will flourish.

“This past year hasn’t been easy but we as the community of Makers Landing will continue to prevail despite the tough circumstances we encounter.” 

With food of course, and music and entertainment, Makers Landing is a popular weekend family destination. (Photo: Supplied)

Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact, Makers Landing is trying to create a place that is about rebuilding businesses and brands, said Visser. “It’s about fostering and nurturing young talent but it’s also about giving people a second chance. It needs to be a blueprint for an entire industry, as we try to put the pieces back together. The industry we love has been left on its knees and is looking for hope. We believe this project provides that.

“Makers Landing is unique in that it’s very different to a traditional food market. We are a food destination that is predominantly focused on offering a hands-on experience of the local food industry,” said Visser. “It is a space where visitors can interact with local food makers. They can visit our on-site working beer brewery, gin distillery, cake studio, bread baker and Halaal butchery to name a few. There are workshops and demo classes for adults and kids alike – everyone has the opportunity to get stuck in and learn more about our local food culture. It truly is a rich food experience where all can learn, eat, make and share together.” DM/TGIFood

For more information, click here.

The writer supports The Gift of the Givers Foundation, the largest disaster response, non-governmental organisation of African origin on the African continent. 

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