New life to old shop ‘kaste’

A haberdashery cabinet where it has been in service for more than 60 years, now restored and ready for a new home or shop.

Even though Huisraad Modern is in the first place a mid-century modern shop, we also have a particular love for the craft of early 20th century shopfitting. Now, cranky old men usually maintain that things were made better in “ye olden days”. In most cases this is not true. Small modern Japanese sedans are infinitely more reliable and better performers than old American sedan wagons, even though these old cars are comfortable and have soul.

But in one industry the old is clearly better than the new. Shopfitting. Haberdashery shops, clothing shops, shoe shops, bicycle shops, in the old town districts of any city, were fitted to stay classy and practical for decades. There were no laminated materials or particle board in sight. Artisans worked with solid wood and oodles of skill. It was admittedly done in less opulent style than with house cabinets, and wood types were mixed and matched according to what was available and what was affordable, al which adds to the soul and character of these pieces.

The top of a 4.4 m shop counter that we restored, but left the soulful marks as part of this piece's history

The 4.4m cabinet in it's full glory

Every city had their shopfitters with their own particular and quirky styles. As South Africa’s foremost dealer in vintage haberdashery units, we have come to know the differences between the shopfitters from Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.

Brimble & Briggs did shopfitting in Cape Town in the first half of the 1900's

Lately we have been featuring various shop fitted cabinets from a shoe and clothing factory reject shop that closed down right on the Salt River circle, after the third generation of Jacobs shop owners finally retired. There is no successor, so we were approached to take over the cabinets, and what a bittersweet pleasure it has been.

Colin Jacobs, last owner of 'Reject King' in Salt River and Huisraad's Ali van Wyk, removing the habedasheries one by one from the shop that closed down.

The cabinet from the previous picture, after restoration (SOLD)

It is sad to see a shop like that closing, but it is also great to know that the old cabinets and counters will be restored and end up in a loving home or thriving shop. This week we feature the last and the two most impressive of the 'Reject King' cabinets: a 42 drawer haberdashery and a 4.4 m counter unit made from solid wood.


Another "before" and "after" success story


The cabinets from 'Reject King' were rich with history: from ancient newspapers found in the drawers to price and product stickers of brands that are long extinct

More about the history of Reject King:

"My grandfather was Louis Jacobs. He spoke very little English, was of Lithuanian descent. A shoemaker by trade. My father did his trade in the clothing industry as a machinist of sorts. He later joined his father and started selling factory rejects in 1961. The first factory shop in Cape Town! The business was renamed in 1962 to The Reject King and became an icon in the 60's through to the 2000's. The first memory of the cabinets in our shop was in 1948. My father bought them from auctions and liquidation sales."

-Colin Jacobs

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