Sometime in the middle of May this year, we released the innocent announcement that our flagship store at 120 Bree Street would be “temporarily closed for 2 weeks” for reasons pertaining to “repairs and maintenance”. Two weeks went by, and we hadn’t returned. A lingering silence began to settle over the cobbles in front of the empty store, tumbleweed rolled across the sidewalk, and cobwebs were growing in the gaps of our shutter. Despite its promises of returning, a fixture of Bree Street had disappeared. Three and a half months later, we’re breaking the story of the biggest mystery in the modern history of Bree Street wide open. On the real though, with our return to the shop imminent, now is an appropriate time to reflect on the difficulties, vulnerabilities and insecurities of running an independent fashion and lifestyle store alongside its flagship clothing brand and a manufacturing facility, and what we have learnt from it. It’s also our excuse for the three-month absence. Our initial intentions to close the store for two weeks were pure. In its 2.5-year lifespan, we had never given ourselves a window big enough to tend to the inevitable wear and tear caused by persistently harsh Capetonian winds, rains and parties. Although we vacuumed, swept, mopped and scrubbed the store every morning before opening, with two years of foot traffic and parties, it became clear that we were pushing the same dirt around the store every day at some point. Our mosaic tiles started to lose their crisp glisten, which slowly got replaced by a highly resistant layer of grime. Our notorious latch window that we had built to give the store an air of openness and a welcoming face had become a little too welcoming to unwanted rainwater through the leak that plagued it for most of its life. Lastly, we decided to remove the record shelf from our wall. We’re not a record shop and there are definitely people that do it better than us. Unfortunately, we committed hard to the shelf in the beginning and invisibly bolted it to the wall, causing us to have to gut the entire shop before angle-grinding it out. At the time we decided on a two-week absence, we hadn’t properly comprehended how long these improvements would take. They definitely weren’t set to take three and half months, though. Truth is, we started looking for other reasons to keep the store closed. After two and a half years of hard retail grind in two different locations, the sudden change from managing two stores to only one was secretly flippin lekker. We still had our nook in the Watershed to operate from, but we got dangerously comfortable with having half of our normal retail work, admin and stress to deal with. To be fair to ourselves, besides our absence being enjoyable, it was also necessitated by the fact that our first tourist season free of COVID red-listing saw our stock deplete far more than we expected. Suffering, albeit from success, our stock was spread very thin between the two stores. Learning from last year, we are now ensuring that we have enough stock for the summertime. However, even with the buffer of 120 Bree Street’s closure, it’s been a challenge to prioritise the production of our own stock over the manufacturing that we do for other brands, which makes up the heftiest part of our cashflow. We only reap the financial rewards of our own work once it sells in-store. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, and one that we’re still trying to master. Fortunately, we are reaching a comfortable level of stock for the summer season not to clear us out again. So, we haven’t been resting on our laurels. Since Ziyaad smoked his last entjie on Bree Street, we’ve also had two rodeos at Decorex in two different cities, one of which prompted the store’s first ever voyage to Johannesburg. Besides being too understaffed to even imagine hypothetical situations of running three different retail spaces at once, we also needed to lug our store furniture to both trade shows, giving us another excuse to remain closed for an extra two months. Our cross-country trek to Joburg let us touch base with a part of our community that we’ve neglected for too long and gave us the space away from home to think about the direction that we want to take with our brand going forward. We’ve realised that we should focus on what we’re good at instead of constantly overextending ourselves. The fact that we’ve been to two décor trade shows and haven’t sold any furniture (YET!) has showed us that maybe we’re just not furniture dealers (YET! There is still some hope), in the same way that we’re not a record store (for which there’s no hope left). You can keep the dream alive by shopping our furniture here, though ;). With a three-month soul-searching mission behind us, we can leave behind what we know doesn’t work for us and start afresh with new ideas. A jewellery cabinet will be taking the space that the record shelf used to fill with a minifridge squeezed in there too. We’re moving in a direction that better represents the original philosophy of the store with these changes, focused more on fashion and lifestyle products. I don’t know about you, but grabbing an ice-cold glass bottle of Coca-Cola from the minifridge and popping it open on our new bench pillow sounds like a pretty decent lifestyle to us. We’ve also dreamt of a soft-serve machine, but that might have to wait for the next evolution. Either way, our break gave us the opportunity to rethink what kind of retail experience we want to offer our customers, and apply a curatorial language that represents us more accurately. In planning the new product additions to 120 Bree Street, the team has been using a strict “would you wear it?” rule, because why would we stock something that doesn’t speak to our own sensibilities first? We’re finally fed up with our holiday away from Bree Street. As much as we have revelled in the extra breathing room and are thinking of repeating the exercise next year, yissis we missed it. This week, on Thursday the 7th of September, we’ll be back like we never left. While we will have a couple new shiny features to show off, our reopening is more of a replenishment than a reinvention. The space and its offerings are a constant work in progress, and this is not its final form. Instead, expect continual refreshments to the space. We kick off our return home with the Duck Duck Goose Soundsystem and Vinehugger for a classic First Thursday skop on the pavement of 120 Bree Street. We have a tasty music line-up, new clothes, and wine to share with you. Pull in for our re-housewarming. We can’t wait to be back!