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Kingswood Juan and Verna van der Merwe

Local ‘n Lekka – Family is Juan Van Der Merwe’s most Treasured Tenure

By Esther de Villiers

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Local ‘n Lekka – Family is Juan Van Der Merwe’s most Treasured Tenure

By Esther de Villiers

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3 min read

Kingswood residents for the past eight years, Juan and Verna van der Merwe are properly ensconced in the George community, being essential cogs in the town’s industrial machine and educational fold respectively.

Natives of Nelspruit – capital of the exotic northeastern province of Mpumalanga, and today called Mbombela – the family Van der Merwe moved to George in good time for Juan to attain his matric at Outeniqua High School in 1990.

‘I married my school sweetheart, and we’re celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this month. Verna works at Eden Technical High, where she is in charge of the school’s finances,’ says Juan.

The couple’s 19-year-old son, Eugene, studies online while working at RAW Projects to earn his keep as part of the ‘building dreams in steel’ team.

‘The boy’s sporting pursuits kept us particularly busy over the years, because he performed really well on a national level, especially in swimming and biathle. He was SA champion in the latter and had the privilege of participating in Dubai,’ Juan beams.

Biathle, for those not in the know, is a sub-sport of the modern pentathlon invented to create opportunities for training in the run and swim parts of pentathlon in real race conditions. Good on you, Eugene!

As to his own sporting prowess, Juan loves competing in the local lawn bowls Business League with colleagues and friends. On the subject of golf, he says with tongue firmly in cheek: ‘I play a little bit of golf, but my handicap remains in the deep double figures. My friends say “it will take some time”. I’m not sure exactly what that means …?’

He says the Van der Merwe clan likes a lekker braai as much as the next guy, and ditto for well-baked pizzas. ‘We support the Kingswood Clubhouse on a regular basis, often with friends in tow.’

Another interest involves motorsport, in which Juan participated for a number of years. He feels strongly, too, about ensuring that a family hunting excursion takes place at least once a year.

Armed with a familiar workforce

Coastal Armature Winders & Supplies has been operational in George since 1985, starting out as a small business, most probably unaware of how bright its future would be in this provincial boom town. Today, it has grown substantially from those humble beginnings, employing a 21-strong staff contingent.

‘We are managing the business as a tight family unit. From the least to most senior in years, that includes my brother Walter, 36, myself at 49, our 76-year-old mom, and dad, who turns 81 this year. It’s a true blessing for all of us to be involved hands on, in it together on a daily basis.’

The service periods of Coastal Armature personnel range from three to 30 years, and Juan regards his workforce as a significant part of the success and progress experienced by the company.

Coastal Armature Winders & Supplies excels in the repair of electrical motors, as well as sewerage and water pumps. Apart from George, its area of service includes Mossel Bay, Riversdale, Langkloof, Beaufort West, Knysna en Plettenberg Bay.

‘We work in a really specialised field, and this requires frequent training to stay ahead of the game when considering the industry’s ever-evolving technology,’ he explains.

Shooting the breeze

Another section of the Van den Merwe enterprise, Coastal Air Rifles, started as a sideline that suddenly developed into a fully fledged business concern. ‘It really all began as a hobby for my brother, Walter, and the next thing we knew, it became really busy.’

Specialising in air rifle sales and repairs, replenishing gas bottles, and the service and sale of related equipment, Coastal Air Rifles will open its doors officially during April.

‘We’re really excited about this new addition to our offerings,’ says Juan. ‘And when I say “we”, I really mean all of us bound by the business and by blood. My family is my wealth.’

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