There is just one traffic light in Mooi River. It’s a stop street sort of town, with small stores and cows on the kerbs.
Shopping at the Green Grocer seems slightly old fashioned and charming nowadays. Residents of Mooi River and surrounds still do, as they are fortunate to have Farm Fresh Fruiterers operating in Market Street, run by the charming Sulie Suliman and his wife, Sarah.
“My grandfather was the first fruit and vegetable vendor in the village and built some of the original dwellings,” he tells me. Grandfather, Shaik Allawoodeen, arrived in SA as an indentured labourer in 1886 travelling from Durban by ox-wagon. He worked hard, saved much of the 5 shillings a month that he earned, and after 5 years was released. He bought a large plot of land on which he grew vegetables and kept cows. His daughters would deliver milk to customers around the town, while he pushed a hard cart bearing his produce – often parking outside the Post Office.
He built the shop in Market Street from handmade bricks and sold all sorts, besides vegetables. Sulie recalls “He travelled to the Pietermaritzburg Market by train to buy fruit, which was then taken up Church Street to the station by rickshaw. When he got back to Mooi River, his daughters were waiting with wheelbarrows to carry everything home.”
Since he took over the running of the shop in 1976, Sulie goes down to the Market twice a week to stock up on fresh produce. “It is not such a fun occasion anymore, and I am sad that we can’t buy as much locally as we used to be able to.” he says. This little shop is constantly full of customers stocking up of peaches, cauliflower and brinjals. Sulie greets everyone warmly, telling stories and sharing anecdotes.
“My grandfather presented a fruit basket to Princess Elizabeth when the royal train stopped at Mooi River in 1947.” he says proudly. “We supplied fresh veg to Weston College for 99 years, and Treverton Schools for over 50 and all the big farming families know us.” Although they don’t have time to grown their own any more, Sarah is a great cook and they both enjoy eating vegetables. “I love fresh salads most of all,” Sulie says, “when you bite into the lettuce you must hear that crisp sound, and the thinly sliced tomatoes must be almost transparent.”
Right next door is the equally delightful and unapologetically old fashioned Jackson’s Shoe Repairs. It is run by Sulie’s long time pal Mr Jackson who tells me he was “born, bred and buttered in Mooi River”! The store smells of old leather and there are piles of shoes everywhere in various stages of decomposition. These two stores are an integral part of this community and well worth a stop when you are next in Mooi River. Just next to the mosque.