The True Living shop opened its doors for the first time in November 2012, but the label and the philosophy behind this quaint shop in the heart of the Karoo goes back a long way.
The owner, Elani Lombard, is a farmer’s wife. When she and her husband, Wentzel Lombard, got married in 1985, Lani moved from her home town, Kimberley, to Cradock, where they came to live on one of Wentzel’s family farms, more than 20km out of town. For Lani, this was a dream come true. Amid raising two busy boys and later a girl, too, Lani baked up a storm in her farm kitchen on Karoowaters and sold the fare to the local home industry store in Cradock. Her produce became legendary. And alongside the other ‘big’ names of home-baking in Cradock, Lani made a name for herself.
After a few years, Wentzel and Lani sold Karoowaters and bought another farm – this time even further from town. Living 50km out, Lani couldn’t provide the home industry store anymore, but she never stopped baking and cooking.
On the new farm, Waterval, where the Lombards still live today, Lani installed a light green, second-hand AGA stove in the kitchen. The AGA became the main life source of the kitchen, and even the farm. Waterval is an International Game Farm and tourists from all over the world come to admire the beautiful farm and all the wildlife, but also to indulge in Lani’s cooking. Some even say they come only for the food!
Throughout the years the farm expanded. Wentzel and Lani built a butchery on the farm, in order to prepare and process the hunted game on the premises. Lani’s kitchen, too, expanded in the sense that they started growing, making and processing more and more products on the farm. Lani’s renowned pies, the home-made lemonade and foodstuffs alike were being made in the kitchen on the AGA.
The townspeople were always asking for products from the farm and when Lani went to town, she never left the farm without a car filled to the brim with food orders – whether it was home-made sausages, venison or lamb pies or the famous family-recipe sosaties.
Apart from the meat products, Lani has always been passionate about hand-crafts like knitting, crocheting and other hand-made home ware made from natural fibers. She started teaching the women who live on the farm with her – the women whose husbands work with Wentzel – to do all these crafts, too. Soon friends who visited Waterval wanted to buy the beautiful rugs, blankets, handbags and pillows Lani and the ladies made. So Lani started to sell them too and gave a percentage of the profit to the ladies who helped.
In 2012, however, Wentzel and Lani decided that they wanted to expand and start their own shop. It has always been Lani’s dream to open her own place and after 28 years of being a team on the farm, they decided to take a leap. Lani was already making a lot of what the True Living shop currently stocks on the farm, they just needed a place of their own. So they bought an old ‘dorpshuisie’ in the main street of Cradock, renovated it in the original Karoo style, and True Living was born.
The restaurant, bakery and deli parts of the shop is called Lani’s Kitchen, but the entire unity is part of the True Living house.
True Living is a family business. Lani’s business partner is her second oldest son, Le Riche, a civil engineer. However, it is a family business in more ways than that. Without Wentzel’s excellent business sense and his bombastic personality, True Living would have never opened its doors. Or without the entire Lombard family’s input (they all live in Cradock), the restaurant would not have had such honest and incredibly sincere daily feedback.
The shop is always filled with family and friends. It is a place of warmth and love and it truly something completely unique.