Of all the stories behind SVL Cape Town’s staff members, Gavin Winn’s is particularly inspirational. Having worked for 54 years for the branch, Gavin is both one of the company’s longest-serving employees and also an undisputed master in his specialised field of furniture restoration. We profile his unique ability to turn the clock back on damage.
When Gavin joined Stuttaford Van Lines’ Cape Town branch, it was split across two locations: a warehouse in the CBD’s Bree Street and a depot for trucks in Woodstock’s Searle Street.
Gavin left school at Standard 2, and by the tender age of 13 joined his father and uncle who were both already restoring furniture at Stuttaford Van Lines.
“We have had fabulous managers. The main guy was Mr Porter back then, like Mr Kitshoff now [Mike Kitshoff – current Branch Manager],” Gavin recalls. “We are all like one family, the customers and ourselves, and the customers have always come first!”
Gavin’s father worked for the branch for 50 years, and Gavin looked up to him and his uncle for inspiration and training. Now 67 years old, however, Gavin surpassed his father’s service record, and after 54 years with SVL he has no intention of leaving.
Due to Cape Town’s rich historical roots, there are a remarkable number of antiques in circulation in the area. SVL’s Cape Town branch sees a lot of these while conducting household removals or specialised removals through its Fine Arts division, and Gavin’s restoration plays an important role.
Scratched table tops or pianos, chipped painting frames, broken table legs and even marble slabs … there is very little that he hasn’t seen and restored to an even better condition than before.
Gavin’s fine touch with these items – which are frequently priceless antiques, and therefore fragile and exceedingly technical to repair – has led to his services often being requested by former happy customers. He is however strict about only working for customers moving with Stuttaford Van Lines.
His most challenging restoration project was an antique Dutch clock made from Spanish mahogany, which was knocked over by a gust of wind and broken into hundreds of pieces. “I put it all together, and the owners couldn’t believe it was the same one!” says Gavin.
With some of the items valued at hundreds of thousands of rands, you might expect him to be nervous about some of the seemingly impossible repairs, but he has the unassuming confidence of somebody with his decades of experience.
“If it’s wood, I’ve got no problem. Even marble or china … I’ve done a lot of marble too,” he says. “Thanks to the old people who built Cape Town I can go right around the world and I won’t have any problem restoring anything.”