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The best of Bree

The best of Bree

by Sharon Sorour-Morris
30 September 2021

The pandemic hasn’t robbed Bree Street of its mojo. Far from it. The jewel in the CBD’s crown is constantly reinventing itself thanks to innovative entrepreneurs.

It’s the beating heart of the Cape Town CBD, still standing after having endured 18 months of South Africa’s draconian lockdown. Sure, the curfews, alcohol bans, and exodus of office workers from the once-bustling CBD have taken their toll.

But Bree Street is still brimming with life, its tenacious and talented business owners, entrepreneurs and property developers pulling out all the stops to survive through foresight, grit, determination, agility and hard work.

While recent reports have suggested it’s been reduced to a ghost town, they’re exaggerated. Currently, there are only 12 vacant shops out of 90 retail and entertainment entities. Some of these have closed their doors for good or relocated due to impossibly high rentals and the economic downturn brought on by Covid-19.

They include stalwart destination establishments such as La Tête, Jason Bakery, Kirsten Goss, Missibaba, and Folk Coffee Anthropology. But all is not lost. Bree St is still home to 91 businesses including 15 architect, engineering and energy firms, 21 accounting, insurance and financial services establishments, 11 property and real estate companies and 9 corporate head offices.


Bree St entrepreneur, Heather Moore, owner of Skinny laMinx.

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT

Heather Moore, owner of iconic Skinny laMinx, cites the resilience of entrepreneurs, especially those who own independent stores that add character to the Cape Town CBD offering. “These businesses add charm not only to Bree St but to town itself and are destination establishments that play an important role in the CBD economy.”

Skinny laMinx is one of them. Heather and her crew have been based in Bree St, which she calls “Long St for grown-ups”, for 10 years. It’s been an amazing ride, but she is quick to admit that operating in a pandemic has been testing. Problems with her online store and having to retrench staff were only two of the challenges. “But we pulled through: customers were extremely supportive and when the lockdowns started to ease, they came back to the store and placed their orders.”

Moore says Bree St business owners also reached out to each other and offered support. “There has been a lot of generosity and sharing of information over this time.”


Duck Duck Goose clothings store, one of Bree Street's small, characterful establishements.

ENTREPRENEURS PULL OUT THE STOPS

Moore is only one of a tribe of Bree St entrepreneurs who have proved their mettle. Take respected chef Matt Manning, owner of fine dining destination Grub & Vine, who has consistently adapted and added to his offering to survive the pandemic. From starting Culture Wine Bar to launching a Wine Library and hub, he has soldiered on with great success.

Then there’s Debbie Wynne, owner of the iconic Café Frank, who recently celebrated 12 years in Bree St. She had a parklet erected to extend her outdoor area and also reached out to dog owners by making her establishment pooch-friendly with a doggie menu to boot.

Other female entrepreneurs who have gone the extra mile are Clay Café in the City owner Jade Saunders and Between Us eatery co-owners, twin-sister duo Jamie and Jesse Friedberg.

Then there’s the husband-and-wife team, Alexandra Höjer and Barry Armitage, who own clothing design store Alexandra Höjer Atelier. And entrepreneur Ofer Hollinger, whose hole-in-the-wall street-food hatch, Nish Nush, has fast developed a cult following for its delicious falafels and shwarmas. 


The Ladder, a destination eaterie on Bree St.

LIVING THE LIFE

Little wonder then that Bree St is also a prime residential location. With the completion of the soaring development 16 on Bree in 2020 – valued at R860 million – the Foreshore gained 392 units of prime residential real estate.

Following hot on its heels is the R150-million landmark heritage development, The Barracks, which is currently under construction after a decade of planning. Situated on the corner of Bree and Strand sts, the development (which is also home to iconic Bree St retailer Mike’s Sports) will add a striking new dimension to the residential and retail offering of the area.

The sleek residential complex will have 64 micro-apartments, an exclusive rooftop wellness centre and a myriad upmarket restaurants. Already open is MiCaffè Milano, a chic cosmopolitan coffee shop with a nod to Milan’s coffee culture. The addition of The Barracks to the Bree Street residential pool will bring the number of units to 726.


An artist's impression of Africa's first biophilic building, The Fynbos.

AFRICA’S FIRST BIOPHILIC BUILDING

Then there’s The Fynbos, the brand-new kid on the block that, once completed, will add 689 apartments to the Bree St residential pool. Still in the planning phase, Africa’s first biophilic building, which will have 1 200 m² of vertical gardens, will rejuvenate the bland hub of Upper Bree St and turn it into a sought-after location, promoting plant-based living.

Business investment in the street, spearheaded by the R1.3 billion City Park development, is heartening. Renewal is constant. La Tete’s venue has just been taken over by a glamorous new eatery, The Royal Oyster Bar. So, here’s to the band on Bree, who continue to make it happen.

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IMAGES: CCID, Marius Swart Visual Studio, Lane van Tonder

Tags: Bree Street Skinny laMinx The Fynbos The Royal Oyster Bar The Ladder The Barracks MiCaffè Milano