Thatcham paramedics roaring trade after taking over South African Sa-Zim shop
A THATCHAM couple have had a roaring success since taking over a South African shop in town.
Paul and Victoria Rock took over Sa-Zim (South Africa Zimbabwe) in High Street six weeks ago, a step away from their jobs as paramedics.
Mr Rock was raised in South Africa and worked for the fire department in a township in Johannesburg before coming to Thatcham.
He has been with the NHS for 20 years, having worked for South Central Ambulance Service, where Mrs Rock works, and now South Western Ambulance Service.
On taking over Sa-Zim, Mr Rock said: "My wife said to me 'out of all the crazy ideas, that was the best one'.
"We are very family-minded. We wanted to buy a small business for ourselves and our girls to have in the background away from clinical.
"And being South African, the opportunity came up and we went for it."
The couple have four daughters and 10-year-old Lyla designed the shop's new Giraffe logo.
Shop manager Sarah Pilfold has stayed on to run the day-to-day business and Mr Rock said the first six weeks had been "absolutely amazing".
He said: "We have changed the shop completely. It was very dull and we have completely coloured it up.
"We are also offering a lot more South African goodies and treats like fresh tarts and cakes.
"We are doubling our daily turnover. Our footfall has increased immensely. In the first week we sold out of everything. Last month's takings were the best the shop has ever done in nine years."
The shop sells South African beer, wine, orange juice, sweets, breakfasts, Boerewors and potjie pots, along with earrings and cook books.
A share of some items sold goes toward building schools in Africa.
A share of profits of drawings by Mr Rock's mother-in-law are also donated to the African Wildlife Foundation.
Mr Rock said: "We are trying to give back as much as we take."
He said that the shop wanted to become part of the community and aimed to hold fundraising raffles for sick children and good causes in the town.
Mr Rock spoke to the NWN last year about working as a paramedic with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, along with making PPE for local care homes at Newbury and District Hackspace in Thatcham.
He said: "It's been a hard year-and-a-half. It's not been fun at all but it's my job. It's been stressful.
"My wife is so happy I've done something different that's not work related.
"I've enjoyed chatting to the customers and we have had great feedback.
"Sarah and I are striving to build it up and come up with new ideas.
"Victoria is unbelievably supportive and keeps me on the line to make sure we are doing everything right.
"I love it. I smile every time I come in.
"I have never owned a businesses, I've always done medical.
"I can't believe I own a shop that I love so much.
"I'm very passionate about it and passionate about making people love it as much as I do."