Yassin Ahmed Adam (82) has retired after 62 years of service at McCoy's Outfitters.
Date: 07 April 2022 By: Anton van Zyl
In a town such as Louis Trichardt, what you buy is often not as important as whom you buy it from. You do not drive to a store to buy a product, only to be treated like a number. Residents prefer to shop at the place where everybody knows your name (to quote a popular theme song). A shop where the owner and staff treat you as a valued customer and friend.
Sadly, at one of these much-loved local stores, one of the owners has retired. The friendly face of Yassin Ahmed Adam will no longer be greeting customers as they enter McCoy’s Outfitters. The 82-year-old Yassin has decided to take things a bit easier after 62 years of service to the community.
We caught up with Uncle Yass, as so many people know him, earlier this week. He quickly gave the assurance that customers will still see him from time to time at the shop. His brother, Iqbal Ahmed, has taken his place between the shelves, packed with clothing and footwear. The two smiled when I remarked that Yassin would now be on “standby” and no longer be a permanent feature at the shop.
Few people will blame Yassin for deciding to scale down a bit. He has been part of the shop since he opened it in 1962.
The Ahmed family are true pioneers in terms of trading in the Soutpansberg district. Around 1901, Ayob Abba and three of his younger nephews, Adam Vally (AV) Mohammed, Hajee Aboo and Aboo Dada, arrived in Louis Trichardt. They were part of a family of Indian traders who settled in the country in around 1892. After a short stay in Pretoria, they moved to the then Pietersburg, before opting to set up shop in the newly established Louis Trichardt town.
The family members started Ayob Abba & Company, with the head office situated on the corner of Trichardt (now Songozwi) and Kruger Street. Ayob Abba & Co also had a subsidiary in the property market, trading as Abba Pty Ltd, which was established in 1903.
AV Mohammed set up his own store, called AV Mahomed & Sons, in 1902. This was a store where you could buy anything from a bicycle to a bag of cement. His sons, one of them being Ahmed Adam, joined him in this venture. Ahmed Adam had four sons and two girls. The eldest, Yassin, was born on 11 October 1940.
At the age of 17, Yassin left school and ventured into the business world. He started off by working for some of the family members, gaining experience of the world of trade. In 1962, he took the bold step to open McCoy’s Outfitters in a small shop in the then Trichardt Street (across the road from where Solly’s Discount World currently is).
The business quickly expanded, and six months later, his younger brother, Iqbal, joined him. This would be a partnership that lasted for more than six decades - a partnership that survived the turmoil of the 1980’s, when the Indian traders in town were forcefully removed to the newly proclaimed Eltivillas. McCoy’s Outfitters only moved back to the centre of town in 2004.
However, throughout the years, despite volatile politics, droughts and generally tough economic conditions, the clothing store flourished. Much of this was due to the friendly and efficient service rendered by the owners. It gradually became one of the leading men’s outfitters in the province.
“There were no difficult years,” said Yassin when asked about the past six decades. “I enjoyed every minute of it.” He admits that the past two years, with the Covid lockdowns, were not easy, but still business continued.
Some of the brands that McCoy’s Outfitters stock today have been with them since the beginning. Yassin pointed at the Grasshoppers shoes and mentioned names such as Watson and Cutrite Clothing. Some of the brands have been in existence for more than a century. He recalls names such as Brentwood, Triple Seven Clothing and Barker Shoes. One thing these brands all have in common is attention to detail and quality, features that have always been a part of McCoy’s Outfitters.
The way trading is done has changed a lot, said Yassin. When he started in business, deliveries were mostly done by rail. You had to phone the suppliers and they would make up a parcel. A few days later you would then get a notification that your package was waiting at the railway station, where you would go and collect it.
The one thing that did not change, however, is the relationship between the person sitting behind the counter and the customer who walks into the shop. This is also the part that Yassin said he will miss most – the friendly interaction with the people.
For the next few years Yassin’s brother, Iqbal, will take over at McCoy’s Outfitters. Iqbal is best known for his involvement at Playboy Sports, which is next door to McCoy’s. When the brothers moved from Eltivillas to the centre of town in the early 2000s, Iqbal first opened up the sports shop and Yassin followed a few years later and opened the clothing store.
Since March this year, Playboy Sport is being managed by another of the Ahmed Adam brothers, Abdully. He and his son, Mohamed, have taken over this shop. Yassin, however, is not planning to retire completely and he will be “on standby” to assist at McCoy’s.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.