You want to see the Dutch-European roots of South Africa? Go to Stellenbosch, a city filled with history. But make no mistake, Stellenbosch is not just historical. It has a large university, is an important business town and the nearby wine area produces great wines.
We asked Chris Willemse, one of the owners of Okasie. Okasie is a Stellenbosch flower shop which has a separate department for wedding and event decorations, leasing décor and furniture.
“Our staff is multicultural which is a reflection of South African society. The majority of our customers prefer flowers with softer hues so we train our staff to work with these colours and create a consistent product. When a floral arrangement leaves our shop, I cannot tell which employee created it. I think we have a very accomplished team now.”
“We always have a number of ready-to-go bouquets in store in various price ranges. We deliver a true European style but we also make more modern, loosely tied bouquets. Giving our customers the opportunity to choose is what distinguishes us from a supermarket. The nearby Woolworth has a giant floral department with good stuff, so if a customer enters our shop, we should thank him. He can buy flowers anywhere but he chose to come to us. This means we have to distinguish ourselves. Our shop has to look bright, clean and sophisticated. It has to make a customer happy. He should find flowers and vases here he won’t find elsewhere. That is why we import vases from the Netherlands and Germany.
In South Africa most of the year you cannot present your flowers outdoors like European florists do because of high temperatures. It is rather difficult to acquire a solid wide assortment of flowers. We get flowers from wholesalers that buy at the Johannesburg Flower Market and there are growers from the Cape region that come to us to sell their flowers. But you are never guaranteed that you’ll get what you ordered, which can be tricky if you need certain flowers for a wedding or an event. That’s why we bought land on which we grow classical Roses, Hydrangea and greens. We are even building a greenhouse for the cultivation of Dendrobium. The consistent availability of quality flowers gives us an advantage.”
Our main source of income is from prosperous clients, both individuals and businesses. Many famous vineyards near Stellenbosch have their reception areas decorated with our floral arrangements. Despite African elements, our floristry is mainly European. At least three times per year we go overseas for inspiration. We follow trends on the internet and peruse magazines. And when we see something of floral interest, we take photos to send to our staff in order to inspire them.”