A unique walk down history lane at Old Nick Village
What’s that interesting place with the stucco white buildings and the modernistic wooden structure on the N2 just outside of Plett, on the way to the Crags? We’ll give you a hint: It houses a plant nursery, a school, an art studio, boutique fashion, curated home-ware and textiles, a design studio and weaving factory.
Built around a 19th Century Cape trading store, Old Nick Village is a landmark destination in Plett, and a unique destination along the Garden Route. Shops, studios and workshops showcase the extraordinary and inspiring connection between ancient crafts, innovative small-scale manufacturing and contemporary design.
The Village is ever-changing, so for families and shoppers alike, expect the unexpected, a fascinating architectural mix, wonderful gardens and a unique group of individual creators. As one of the few historic sites in Plett that is open to the public and remains mostly intact, Old Nick Village has preserved and maintained what has gone before, respecting the opportunity that enabled them to build a future that is meaningful in the 21st century and recognising the privilege of being in the position to honour and perpetuate the entrepreneurial spirit that started with the pioneers of this site.
Old Nick Village is so much more than a shopping centre; it’s a truly sensory experience for the whole family as well as treasure hunters. Steeped in history and heritage, Old Nick Village has a long and rich trading history. In 1853, a young boy called Aaron Toplis came to live on the Gansvallei (“the whole valley”) farm, where he ran a store from the front room, eventually building the separate “Gansvlei General Dealers” – which is now the Mungo shop.
In 1960, the trading store eventually closed its doors, but not for long. In the 1970s, a British man called Spike Devine set up shop in the area selling second-hand furniture in the old Plett Jail. He named it Old Nick, a pun on the British slang term for ‘jail’ based on the fact that his wares were not always in good ‘nick’. When he subsequently took up the lease at the old Gansvlei store, he took the name along with him – and Aaron’s house, shop and barns, with their sun-dried bricks and yellowwood floors, have been known as ‘Old Nick’ ever since.
In 1978, yet another Englishman, Stuart Holding, and his wife Janet (a weaver and a potter respectively) moved in, setting up hand-built looms, a wood firing kiln and studios in the old shop. They sold their wares to holiday makers passing through the area, and over the next 20 years built up a reputation for quality and originality. In 1998 the Holding family bought the entire complex of old farm buildings, shop, farmhouse and stables. With a renovation mindful of this historic site, they created spaces for other artisans and makers of African (particularly South African) origin to sell from, with the intention of creating a unique shopping experience.
In 2017 Old Nick Village landed in the 21st century with the building of the Mungo Mill – an incredible feat of architecture and design, and the production base for the Holding family’s textile business, Mungo. Here, the public are invited to experience the art and energy of weaving first-hand, realising the original vision of the Holdings for Old Nick Village as a point of connection between products and the hands that make them.