story brian downie
If you had walked down Station Drive two years ago, you probably would have done an about turn and departed pretty smartly. The area was a grimy empty relic of industrial development from decades ago – and not the safest place in town. Today, however, a group of young free-thinking entrepreneurs are transforming it into one of the most intriguing and entertaining hot spots, breathing life into old Durban.
It is not without reason that Durban is starting to be talked about as a special place. Without the money of Jo’burg and the glamour of Cape Town, Durban has a culture and energy all of its own … and Station Drive typifies the organic creative drive that goes beyond what we call urban renewal. Its location – just north of the Lion Match Factory in Umgeni Road – is an intriguing juxtaposition of the careful
re-imagination of a classic old Durban building and the explosion of creativity that is Station Drive.
Starting as an experimental enterprise, Sean Stretch initiated The Design Factory, incorporating the Durban Creative Hub and open-plan studios.
Soon after, Andrew Rall, an entrepreneur and creative brand strategist, converted a derelict clothing factory into the multi-use space – The Foundry – which has housed an eclectic mix of open-plan offices and new tech enterprises such as MakerSpace – “a gym for the brain” where 3D printing is just one of the activities available.
After jumping through all the official hoops, Andrew has now realised a dream he has nurtured for many years – the launch of a new range of independent, Durban distilled, limited-edition artisanal spirits (vodka, gin and absinthe) in Durban’s first craft distillery – Distillery 031. He has adapted traditional recipes to include local ingredients and speaks passionately about how he has developed the range to capture the unique flavours of KZN.
On the ground floor of The Foundry, Sean and Marcelle Roberts, who own Cafe 1999 and Unity Brasserie and Bar, have opened a daytime eatery called S43, as well as an adjoining brewery that houses Sean’s craft brewery – That Brewing Co. S43 is a place to eat, a place to meet friends, a place to celebrate and a place to chill. The restaurant also operates as a function venue for events and pop-ups, explains Marcelle. “We will be serving creative breakfasts and lunches with a focus on healthy food,” she says, adding that they have a special menu of food and beer pairings, and tasting platters that will be updated regularly.
The latest venture – The Station – is a mixed-use space that allows local artisans to design, manufacture and sell their products all under one roof. The Station includes artisan retail space, a photography studio, coffee shop and the expansion of the MakerSpace.
Paul Basson, the man behind the Station Drive developments, describes the concept as an old Durban Train Station, which will be a meeting point and a starting point for the beginning of any journey. What a great analogy for this very special place. *
Above: Entrepreneur Andrew Rall and his range of Durban distilled, limited-edition artisanal spirits.
From eateries to breweries, fashion, photography, manufacturing and designers, Station Drive is a hub of creative energy.Tags: Durban, MakerSpace, Umgeni Road