The man behind The Market
Two years ago, Ballito’s busiest shopping destination, The Lifestyle Centre, suffered a massive loss. The launch of the new regional mall across the road meant that their entire fashion element was lost, and the powers that be had to sit down and rethink the centre’s position in the market.
What they have accomplished since then has been nothing short of amazing. The Lifestyle Centre has made an impressive comeback, with a massive focus on their food element, while still offering a range of more ‘boutique-type’ retail stores.
All of this was the result of a lot of hard work and complete dedication to the project on the parts of brothers-in-law Murray Loader and Bruce Rencken. “This was not just me. It really was a collaboration between myself and Bruce,” says a very humble Murray.
Bruce, on the other hand, pegs Murray as the brains behind not only the architectural design and tenant selection of both The Market and the Eat Street concepts, but also the more detailed design elements of the market, including shop design, shop fitting and fixtures, lighting, signage and even menus. He also worked on the new ablution facilities and both the hardscape and landscape of the centre. “Murray completely immersed himself in this project over the past 24 months, from strategy and conceptualisation to design and detailed drawings and then project management, construction and manufacturing. He worked tirelessly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” says Bruce.
According to civil engineer and owner of Country Kitchens Murray, both he and Bruce are perfectionists who hate not getting things right. “We needed to redevelop the centre and reposition ourselves and Bruce and I had the same vision from the beginning.
“We wanted to create a place where people could meet, socialise and connect – and we had a huge retail space that needed to be filled. Our idea to create an artisanal market place was based on the extensive research we did, which told us that artisan food is highly trendy. People want homegrown, local, community-based food and produce.”
Murray conducted research both in South Africa and internationally, and then used the best ideas from all of them, customising and tailor-making the ideas to suit the Ballito market.
“Our Biggest challenge initially was finding the right tenants who were willing to take their small ‘weekend’ businesses to another level. We worked very closely with these business owners, offering them guidance and support in the development of their business as much as we could. All of them are fantastic entrepreneurs.”
Currently the only indoor, artisanal food market trading seven days a week in the country, Murray says they didn’t want to be seen as a run-of-the-mill ‘fleamarket’ but rather to create an upmarket, sophisticated environment with trendy décor and an almost ‘industrial’ feel.
“We have been overwhelmed by the encouragement and response we have received from the community. The success has been beyond our wildest expectation. We still have a lot of work and tweaking to do, but we are continually improving where we can and nurturing our tenants.
“I think our biggest surprise has been the number of feet through the door. Some of the businesses have gone from turning over around R600 a day to R8000 a day!”
He says the idea behind Eat Street, the restaurant node in the newly developed centre, was to become the dominant eating out destination in the area, that could be on par with, if not better than the restaurants in the Umhlanga village.
“We are continually researching and redeveloping and if there is something better out there we we’re going to copy it – and improve on it! We are definitely not scared to steal great ideas,” laughs Murray.
Text: Leah Shone | Photographs: Barry Bowditch
Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga) February 2018