Fires not entirely to blame for revenue decline
A Taylor, Somerset West:
As with its residents, Knysna businesses have been hard hit by the fires, and continue to be so nine months afterwards.
International arrivals have increased by approximately 3%, as has retail, and businesses in Knysna should have been performing better.
The fire was the catalyst, but the reality is that Knysna has long ago lost its beautiful, rustic and quaint character, and has become simply tatty.
It started all before
I visit once a month, and every time it depresses me to see the condition of Knysna, which has nothing to do with the fire damage. I don’t know what the plans are of the good people who are involved with restoring Knysna, and whether it might already address my concerns.
To my mind, there are three main issues: the state of the roads, the condition of the buildings, and signage and advertising on shops.
To the Knysna council’s credit, some of the roads in the CBD have been tarred, but all of them need to be. Consider one of the main centres on the corner of Main/Grey streets and note how dirty the top of the building is. It might have been cleaned since I was there last, but it has been in that state for the last 10 years at least. Other buildings are simply not maintained and have become run down.
In addition to being cleaned up I would love to see buildings being restored to the original character of Knysna, perhaps with the addition of beautiful woodwork, or even “broekie lace”. It need not cost the earth, and it is amazing what a lick of paint and a bit of wood decoration can do for a building.
I am delighted that there is currently a drive to renew the CBD, but unless council gets involved with stricter regulation, Knysna as a whole will not achieve a cleaner look.
I feel that council has to take a firmer stand, identify run-down buildings, issue a decree, and monitor their exterior restoration. It all begins and ends with the municipality developing a grand plan.
Knysna’s tatty look
There is a place for all types of businesses in Knysna, even those that residents might feel are undesirable. However, it is the look of those businesses that drags Knysna down, and, once again, council has to enforce laws ruling signage on shops and windows. Shops rightly need to display their names, but many of these signs in Knysna do not conform to professional standards. Additionally, some windows are plastered with advertising, pictures and handwritten signs. This is what gives Knysna its downmarket feel.
In no decent shopping centre or beautiful tourist town like Greyton will you see anything but the name of the business, and perhaps one professionally printed advertising poster with current promotions.
Shop windows a good start
Shop windows either need to be laminated completely with professional pictures, or window displays have to conform to good standards. Shelving and shop counters visible through windows also need to be respectable.
The most effective way of drawing people to a shop is to have a display of products outside the shop, and the majority of Knysna shops manage neat displays that don’t detract from the overall look. Not all is bad, and there are some centres/shops that conform to good standards and a unique character, such as the Waterfront, the Mall, Thesens and the bottom reaches of Grey Street. But most of Knysna town needs a major cleanup, and pavements need to be decluttered.
Bring back the visitors
The measures that I have suggested sound draconian, but without addressing these issues and exerting some control it will always be a case of “bo blink en onder stink”. Many years ago, on a rainy weekend, the whole area used to pull into Knysna to visit its several markets, alternative shops, thriving woodturning industry, handcrafted products and its quaint character.
My wish for Knysna is that it can somehow restore an identity that will bring back tourists and wealth for its citizens.