WECKE & VOIGTS – the oldest golden oldie turns 120
Compiled by Marita van Rooyen
Wecke & Voigts is one of the oldest businesses in Namibia. In 1972 the company boasted with the first air-conditioned store in the country. A family business, it is now in the hands of the fourth generation of Voigts’.
The short version of a long story: One day two of five sons living on a smallholding in Germany, Albert and Gustav Voigts, having finished school, decided to explore the unknown. The year was 1890. Albert took off and teamed up with German trader Fritz Wecke in Schoonzicht in the Transvaal. A couple of months later he wrote to his older brother, Gustav, asking him to join him and Wecke in Southern Africa, where there were many opportunities to make money. In 1891, Gustav boarded a boat, sailed around Cape Horn to Cape Town, took a train to Kimberley from where Wecke brought him to Schoonzicht via ox wagon, where they then waited for his brother. The trio headed for the territory north of the Orange River, and after a gruelling journey by ox wagon through the Kalahari Desert, met with governor Theodor Leutwein in Windhoek to discuss business.
In September 1892 they registered the company Wecke & Voigts, and set up shop in Okahandja, in a shed allocated to them by Chief Maharero of the Herero people. A year or so later they were joined by their third brother Richard, and in 1895 opened their second store, this time in Windhoek’s Store-Strasse, exactly where the Gustav Voigts Centre is today.
Their many challenges: During their 120 years of existence, Wecke & Voigts has survived many ups and downs, such as losing some of their stores during the Herero War in 1904. In the ensuing years many of these were plundered and burnt down. Some of their staff members were even killed. But the company persevered, financing many farmers during recurring periods of drought, and somehow staying alive through two world wars and numerous economic downturns.
The company today: The modern Wecke & Voigts group consists of the main Wecke & Voigts store, located in the centre of Windhoek, a store in Queenspark, Wecke & Voigts National Wholesale in the northern industrial area, and Maerua Superspar in Centaurus Road. “The company has endured and is now strong and solid – with plenty more to come!”
How they achieved their success: “We have always remained optimistic and confident about our country, Namibia, and have thrown in our efforts to be part of development and progress. We have endeavoured at all times to be fair to our staff, and to follow quality management practices that are visible to our customers, to whom we offer etwas Besonderes in true German fashion. We strive to do things differently, to operate in a good location and an attractive environment, to offer all kinds of merchandise at fair and good prices, and to employ trained, friendly personnel, as evidenced in all our stores. Above everything else, the company has always been closely attuned to nature and supportive of actions that protect one of Namibia’s great resources: wildlife!”
MY NAMIBIA: Dieter Voigts, Chairman of Wecke & Voigts, says that exploring the Skeleton Coast from Serra Cafema is one of his favourite breakaways. “It’s the ideal spot for enjoying the serenity and magnificence of this country. We, as the Voigts family, love all areas of Namibia; each has its own special beauty.”
This milestone was originally published in Travel News Namibia Autumn 2013 print edition.