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Covid turns Barrydale’s Donkey Shed into a brand new business

Sarah Fitz-Gerald
Written by Mickey Mentz

Restaurant becomes home for previously loved items

When the country came to a grinding halt and Donkey Shed owner Sarah Fitz-Gerald had paid her staff their wages, she only had a few pennies left in her bank account.

And to make matters worse, the taxman also came knocking.

It was a terrible few months of her life, but it was in this challenging time that everything changed….for the better.

Reflecting on the initial hard lockdown when the dreaded pandemic first arrived on South African shores Sarah, like many other restaurateurs, had to face the reality that it would be nearly impossible to run a sustainable business.

“There were a few days that I was so miserable that getting of bed became an almost impossible task,” Sarah admits.

As lockdown restrictions were eased, she lit up her pizza oven and started doing takeaways that, although successful at first, was not exactly enough to keep the ship afloat.

Sarah had already placed her beloved Donkey Shed on the market prior to lockdown due to a decline in tourism in the region and she admitted that the pandemic was merely the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s (or Donkey’s if you will) back.

She eventually reached a point where selling her restaurant inventory was the only way she could keep the taxman at bay.

It just so happened to be at her closing down sale, when the tide started turning for Sarah.

A new lease on Donkey Shed’s Life

The closing down sale was a huge hit. Not only did Sarah receive incredible support from the community who bought pretty much all her equipment, she also rediscovered a passion she never imagined would become a business.

“I’ve always enjoyed stopping at these shops when traveling through dorpies and although this was totally unplanned, I have never been happier doing what I’m doing.

The minute word got out that Donkey Shed was gaining popularity as a place where you could buy quality previously loved goods; Sarah had her work cut out.

People started bringing their unwanted goods by the bakkie load and, as is often the case in Klein Karoo towns, locals and tourists alike simply fell in love with the space.

“I had many ideas for this place. One of which was to create a permanent market, but today I’m so incredibly blessed to be in this position.

Sarah explained that she found it very curious how someone will come into her shop looking for a specific item and if she doesn’t have it, within a couple of days that item usually arrives at the Shed to sell.

Magic things happen here at Donkey Shed.”

Her reinvigorated passion was soon noticed by Ella Gill who – also due to lockdown – opened a haberdashery in town.

Ella moved from her original shop space at The Hub to the Donkey Shed where she now has more room to do those all important alterations to clothes.

Ella at her post at Donkey Shed

More important though is the fact that her haberdashery service fits in well with the vast variety of previously loved goods that are on sale at Donkey Shed.

Ella relocated to Barrydale a couple of years ago after her husband found the perfect property through Ruth Goodman of the Dormehl Property Group.

Interestingly enough, Ruth was also the agent who sold Donkey Shed to Sarah.

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More exciting developments on the cards @ Donkey Shed

And finally, if the future could not look any brighter for Sarah, she recently converted a section of her old kitchen to accommodate Barrydale’s very own tattoo artist Werner Botha.

“I think there are still many pockets of business opportunities in Barrydale and I hope the right people will come along to fill those voids.”

Tatoo Artist Werner Botha at the Donkey Shed
Tattoo artist Werner Botha

The town does, for instance, desperately need a pharmacy and a beauty salon would not hurt either.

Did we mention BigBoi Max the cat who greets guests by lying on his back as they enter the shop? Oh yes and of course the Bloomindale nursery is right next to Donkey Shed as well.

At this nursery, area specific plants are sold at platteland prices.

Whichever way you look at it, Sarah is an example of a strong-minded business woman who was by no means scared to think out of the box to find a solution to a very dire situation.

Perhaps we can all learn from this lady.

Or we can simply support her online shop by visiting donkeyshed.co.za

*This article was sponsored by Ruth Goodman of the Dormehl Property Group

ALSO READ: Mez Market is the place to be in Barrydale (Covid Permitting)

About the author

Mickey Mentz

From my Barrydale base, my goal is to tell the stories of people and places on the picturesque R62. Ek het oor die jare 'n cappuccino verslawing ontwikkel en my hond se naam is Bella.

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