Louis and Martina has a contagious energy and once you meet them you are inspired and just want to be a part of what they are doing. Having started many businesses themselves – they are passionate about entrepreneurship and so The linden Market partnered with the owners of The Real Mackay, to create a platform for entrepreneurs and makers at The Linden Market Pop-up Shop in September. Read the blog to get to know this incredible couple better…
TLM: Louis and Martina, thank you for chatting to us today. Please tell us a little more about who you are…
Martina: We are an entrepreneurial couple, based in Johannesburg. We have always had a passion to start up new businesses. The last few years we started venturing into property development, where we buy an “oldie”, repurpose the building and then get tenants in, and hopefully after a few months or a year, the tenants will be self-reliant. We’re very involved in curating the tenant mix, and hopefully the business will revolve around that. But then with Covid-19, the carpet was pulled out from under our feet. Now we need to rethink what the future is… especially for this building where we are partnering with The Linden Market.
TLM: Tell us a little bit more about the history of this beautiful building in Blairgowrie.
Louis: The building started out as Kentucky House. We found the KFC Cornel logo sandblasted on one of the doors there. And then a few years later the building became an Absa branch. We still have the original reinforced Absa doors with the slogan “yesterday today and tomorrow”. And through the years the building sort of reached out to us. At first it was a whisper “notice me” then it became a shout and eventually the building jumped out right in front of us and said “you are buying me!”. And so we did.
Martina: When we buy properties we try and keep is as authentic as possible. Our whole mission is to be more responsible citizens. We don’t just renovate and throw out the old stuff. We try and up-cycle it and repurpose the stuff that was in the building. A lot of the original doors are still in use, the staircase railing is the same… Even a wall – we started removing the plaster and we found this amazing wall that is so authentic and beautiful. I don’t think you will be able to find it anywhere else.
Louis: The wall is original concrete, and you can see the shutter-boards that they had there, there are spots where you can see the canopies that was there previously, you can still see the in the stones in the concrete. Martina: We believe that buildings have personalities and that a building talks to you. We think that the building is feeling very happy.
TLM: Where did the name The Real Mackay come from?
Martina: Obviously it’s in Mackay avenue. We also got together with a branding specialist to decide what to call the building. We played around with 7 on Mackay, or Mackay number 7. And we just felt that it is so boring… Louis’ family is actually from Scottish heritage, and they are part pf the Gordon clan. I started researching the history of Blairgowrie. The person that actually owned that township – his name was Gordon Mackay. So it just started talking to us. The tenant mix and the people visiting we want to be the “real McCoy” type of person. Being passionate in terms of the tenants. We want to attract people that are passionate about what they do – whether it’s a service that they render, it needs to be the real McCoy. The Real Mackay actually comes from “The Real Mackay whiskey”… there are stories about how the Scottish used the saying this is the real Mackay – meaning this is the real type of whiskey. In terms of the colours we used references to the Gordon Mackay and Mackay clan – we thought it’s just so appropriate to call it The Real Mackay.
TLM: You bought the building before Covid and you must have had these huge dreams or a vision of what you want for the building. Has it changed at all? Tell us little bit more about the vision that you have for The Real Mackay.
Louis: The Real Mackay was closed along with all of South Africa for many number of weeks. The sad reality is that a number of our tenants did not renew their leases. With that is an opportunity as well. We will get to more of that later. Covid had scaled things down for us, but I think that it has made us more real. A lot of us had maybe had a short term vision, where we overloaded our schedules. Now we are forced to slow down, do stock take – I think this fits in beautifully for the whole Real Mackay vision as well. We are from the conscious living community. So it is about enjoying things, about thinking of the effect that we have on our planet. We believe that everybody can make just a slight course correction. We don’t need a complete new lifestyle, but all of us can just make a slight change and that’s what we’re all about.
TLM: We are very grateful to you for reaching out to The Linden Market and we are very excited to host the first TLM Pop-Up shop in The Real Mackay in September. Why did you reach out? What was your idea? Why did you want to partner with The Linden Market?
Martina: We have almost gone full circle. When we started The Real Mackay we had a pop-up shop where we partnered with artisans, where we showcased their products and took a commission. But as time went by we almost changed courses a little bit and started taking in tenants that might not really have fitted into what we wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to do a small “Linden Market” at The Real Mackay and I think having tried that, I realised that I can’t be the expert in everything and this is not my expertise. This is your expertise… you’ve done it… you’ve got the connection with the artists and the makers and I think the future is about working together and collaborating and seeing how we can share resources to put something together that is “wow”. I’m very excited!
I received the email that said you were cancelling the June Market and I’m very much about putting it out there to the universe, so I took a chance and it was wonderful that you actually replied to the Facebook message. A lot of businesses when you send them a Facebook message it just lands up somewhere and it was great that the two of you came back and that you wanted to see how we could share our vision with your vision. And it’s wonderful to be a part of it because a lot of these artists have been struggling over the past few months and I think they must feel very frustrated that they can’t get the product out to the public. I think it’s a wonderful partnership between us and you and the makers and then hopefully the community that will support us on the day.
TLM: You are a very conscious part of the community – we love your slogan “support local, shop local, eat local, spend local and enjoy local”. What do you think the TLM Pop-Up shop will mean to the Blairgowrie community specifically?
Martina: The Blairgowrie community is predominantly In their 30’s starting with families. We have a very active Blairgowrie community page. A lot of the Blairgowrie residents are very aware of global warming, recycling, repurposing. A lot of them are part of the Blairgowrie farmers page, where Blairgowrie residents have small veggie gardens on their property and they were very supportive when we opened. So we already have a relationship with the Blairgowrie community and a lot of them are artisans that want to showcase their products. I know we’re going to be successful on those two weekends of September and the community is going to see that there is a space where we can showcase their products to the rest of the Blairgowrie community.
TLM: As you said things have changed over these past few months and you also mentioned that you have to look at things differently and see the opportunities. It’s not always a bad thing when things change. How do you see the future of retail in South Africa?
Louis: We’ve seen an explosion of online options, but we still have to feel and see. Especially with objects that we want to display in our homes. A lot of the future will be a multi-channel meeting point. A lot will happen online and that might ultimately be the way that we buy. But we still want to have a look and touch and feel and for me the opportunity that we have in the collaboration with The Linden Market that we can be a “brand shop”, a brand window for all the vendors that participate on those days. And then on the online channel itself – you actually know – you probably had a conversation with the person you buy from online and that means that the human touch element is back. So a mixture of online and offline.
Martina: People buy from people and if you can establish that relationship you have a follower, you have a buyer and I think that the Linden Market Pop-Up will be that link. When you buy clothes that are locally made sizes vary, so you need to get to know the sizes – is the medium the right size for me? Or the large? And you can’t really do that online. But once you have established the medium will fit me when you buy such and such a brand, it will then be easy to transact in future.
TLM: Thanks again for reaching out to us, we’re really excited about this partnership with you. The sky is the limit but for now we will take it step by step… The first TLM Pop-Up shop will be on 5 September and then again on 26 September. We’ll see you soon!