Every cloud has a silver lining, so it’s said, but for two De Grendel staff members the Covid-19 cloud has a Delft-blue and oyster-shell lining.
When South Africa’s series of bans on alcohol sales, together with lockdown restrictions on travel, restaurants and gatherings, impacted heavily on the wine industry and tourism destinations, De Grendel was forced to retrench several staff – but an innovative arrangement with one of the estate’s loyal restaurant wine buyers has created an opportunity out of adversity.
Receptionist Rethabile Mafomekoane and restaurant front-of-house staff member Thania Jende have sharpened their creative skills and are turning oyster shells, provided by the Knysna Oyster Company, into a range of decorative products that tie in with the distinctive Delft-inspired blue-and-white designs seen throughout the De Grendel restaurant.
This new creative, entrepreneurship venture, dubbed The Ostentatious Oyster under the guiding hand of Lady Gaedry Graaff, wife of De Grendel’s owner Sir De Villiers Graaff, has enabled Rethabile and Thania to be re-employed and continue supporting their families.
The Knysna Oyster Company, which stocks only De Grendel wines at its oyster bar in the V&A Waterfront Food Market, had no use for oyster shells after patrons had slurped up the contents, and sending them on to De Grendel for upcycling and repurposing fits in with the estate’s environmental sustainability and empowerment ethos.
Rethabile and Thania’s découpaged and delicately gold-ornamented oyster shell bowls, salt and pepper bowls, doorknob hangers and Christmas decorations can be purchased at the De Grendel tasting room and online shop, in a lockdown-inspired new business and social responsibility venture for De Grendel led by Lady Gaedry.
In his 2020 year-end letter to De Grendel’s patrons and friends, Sir De Villiers paid tribute to the fortitude, creativity and innovation of the De Grendel team in finding new ways to deliver the De Grendel experience, “igniting some new approaches that will continue into the future” – and the new decorative products from De Grendel and The Ostentatious Oyster, with their upliftment and empowerment approach, are one of these.
“Amid the business disruptions of lockdown, we have found ways together to survive and to keep our operation sustainable, which is critical to our ability to support those who depend on De Grendel for their employment and support to families and our community.”