One of the main attractions of the Hermanus Old Town is the many independent specialty shops that add to the charming character of the town, especially as many of them are housed in historic buildings that should be preserved at all costs.
One such gem is Amulet in Broad Street (just off Mitchell Street), where owner Helene Truter has created a vintage shop brimming with nostalgia and romance. Every nook and cranny of the shop is filled with what Helene calls “pretty things”, everything from décor items and gifts, to linen, tableware, clothing, accessories and even skin products that are displayed on quirky shelves, tables and cupboards, while others are draped over the walls and dangle from the ceiling.
“I only do pretty,” says Helene. “This is my pretty place where people come to spoil themselves. Every item in my shop is unique and transports you to another time and place. We all need a pretty fix from time to time!” As people tend to linger in the shop, Helene invested in an imported coffee machine and they also serve delicious coffee and cake in the coffee corner and in the tiny courtyard at the back of the shop.
As all business owners in the CBD will attest to, it’s been a tough year and Helene says the only way to survive in the current economic climate is to keep on being innovative. “During the quiet times I often load my car with goods and host pop-up shops all over the place, even in Johannesburg!” she laughs. “In South Africa we all have to be entrepreneurs. Here I am – an actor, voice-over artist, writer, director, shop owner… you must be able to do everything!”
Helene’s positive attitude and tireless energy is nothing short of inspiring. She and her husband, Percy Pretorius, an actor and script editor, both had flourishing careers in Johannesburg when they decided in December 2010 to relocate permanently with their daughter, Jana to their holiday home in Vermont and embrace “small town living”.
People still remember Helene for her endearing role as Poppie in the SABC2 sitcom Vetkoekpaleis, but many are unaware of her writing career, which started in the early nineties when she joined the Egoli scripwriting team. She went on to become the head scriptwriter for Africa’s biggest soap, Generations, in 1997 and more recently she created the multi award-winning SABC2 drama series Swartwater (‘Black Water’). She currently stars in the KykNET series, Fynskrif (‘Fine Print’) and this month she also returns to our screens as a much older Poppie in the new series, Huis Lelieveld.
At the time they moved to Vermont, Helene was still employed as a director on the popular soap, Binnelanders, and she commuted regularly to Johannesburg, as she still does. “Percy and I had no intention of giving up our careers, but we also wanted to start something new in Hermanus. I have always liked pretty things and am an avid fan of car boot and garage sales. One of my favourite shops in Hermanus was Amulet, and when I told the owner that I would love to run her shop for her, she said she was actually thinking of selling – and that was it!”
When the pet shop next door to Amulet closed three years ago, Helene and Percy took over that space to enlarge their shop. “I can be quite fearless,” she says, confessing that she’s a dreamer who believes one should “go big or go home”! When they are not at home writing or commuting to Johannesburg for work, this busy couple takes turns to be at the shop (“The ladies love Percy!” says Helene). They were recently joined by their charming daughter, Jana, a graduate of the Stellenbosch Academy of Photography and Design, whose skills are being put to good use in the shop. Apart from managing the shop and website, she has added her own textile designs, hand-illustrated cards and small lifestyle bags with quirky messages to Amulet’s varied range of merchandise.
Walking through Amulet’s doors is like entering Aladdin’s cave of wonders, filled with treasures just waiting to be discovered. “Challenge the current gloom and doom out there by bringing colour back into your house,” advises Helene. “Flowers are huge this season. Greens, purple, burnt yellow, pink…
“This doesn’t mean you have to throw out your existing furniture. A few well-chosen scatter cushions can change an entire living space. Don’t be timid; celebrate your individuality with bespoke, once-off pieces that set you apart from the tribe. Velvet, one of my favourite fabrics, is making a huge comeback. Vintage, retro, call it what you will, is here to stay. It’s fun and playful. Combine vintage with modern.”
Another favourite of Helene’s is wallpaper. “But if you feel it’s too permanent a change for your home, choose a wall hanging to decorate an accent wall. I regard it as a movable work of art. Should you want to change your look, the wall hanging can simply be moved to another space, or turned into a curtain, head board, table cloth… or simply tossed over a couch. It’s one of those forever buys that won’t date.”
Amulet may not stock everyday essentials, but they sell something that Helene feels is just as essential – a feeling. “Our customers come here to spoil themselves and leave the shop with things they have fallen in love with,” she says. “When I walk into Amulet, my heart soars. That’s exactly how you should feel when you walk into your home. If not… you know where to find me.”
Amulet is located at 4 Broad Street, Hermanus. Visit www.amulatlifestyle.com or call 028 313 0359.