A spaza shop “just to keep busy”

Richard Handel’s small spaza he runs “just to keep busy.” Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

Mary-Anne Gontsana

25 July 2012

For most people, opening a spaza shop is a small business venture to earn an income. For Richard Handel, it is just to keep busy.

The 63-year-old from Montevideo has been running his shop for about ten years now. Originally his late wife’s shop, Handel said the money he makes from it is not that much, but it does make a difference.

“My wife opened a shop at our house while we were still living in Bonteheuwel. Just like this one, she sold luxuries like chips, sweets, and also basics, such as bread and milk. “When we moved to Montevideo I was working. I transported school children, and my wife started the business again,” Handel said.

In 2006, Handel’s wife passed away. He then had to choose between running the shop, or continuing with transporting school children.

“I decided to leave the transporting because I did not want to leave the house unattended. I only have one daughter and she was working, so there would be no one in the house,” Handel said.

“I am not going that big with the shop; I run it to keep busy. Waking up every morning, eating, watching TV, sleeping; I do not want to do that because it will mean I am moving backwards. During winter, business is not that good because it is cold and it gets dark really quickly, so people stay indoors. It picks up in summer, but business is like that. You cannot be too sure what will happen. You can make R100 one day and only R50 the next,” Handel said. He keeps the shop open from 10 in the morning until 9 at night five days a week.

Affectionately known as “Mr Hendel” by his customers, Handel also sells onions, potatoes, toilet paper and other essentials. He gets all of his supplies from a wholesaler he goes to every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.

Handel said his future plans include opening a fruit and vegetable shop in Montana, which is not far from Montevideo. “Once I open a fruit and veg shop, I will appoint someone to run it for me, and I will stay here running the spaza,” Handel explained.