“Do not despise the day of small beginnings” is a maxim that Tocknell Engravers, an engraving company in Brandwag, Bloemfontein, embodies fully. Anne Tocknell, co-owner of the business which she owns with her husband, Fred Tocknell, abd Daughter, Lee-Ann says this business is a project of Fred’s youth, starting it when he was only 17 years old. She joined him later in 1995 to grow it into the friendly and reliable business that has come to have its values etched in our hearts. Anne admits that many moons ago, when she and her significant other started the business, she never would have thought it would have quite the profitable turnout (or turn over – depending on how you look at it) it has today!
As she talks about their journey from having a small shop in what was then referred to as “Sanlam Plaza” (now known as “Bloem Plaza”) to the huge office their business now occupies in Brandwag Centre, Anne’s bright blue eyes come to light with a knowing wisdom and nostalgic energy. Anne explains that her husband, who is a hand engraver, moved to Bloemfontein in 1970 with an engraving firm. After two years, he ventured into his own business. Tocknell Engravers was in 1972 the result. “It was hard in those days. We did not have money and we even had to borrow R5000 to start this business, to build counters and other things from scratch for the shop we were occupying,” Anne says as she ponders upon her pilgrimage with her company.
She also adds that at the time, there were many independent jewellery stores, but over the years many of them either shut down or were acquired by larger companies. However, one thing there was a shortage of in a world where there were many jewellers, was an engraver, especially a hand engraver – which on its own is a highly specialised skill. This was the store’s niche back then and it still is today. Despite the mushrooming of similar businesses, Tocknell remains the engravers and jewellery store of choice for many consumers today. The Best of Bloemfontein: Best Jewellery Store award they won this year can serve as a testament to the overwhelming confidence customers place on this store which has perfected the flair for service delivery over the last 40 years.
Today Tocknell Engravers is worth a lot more today than when they started. and Anne attributes much of the business’ success to her husband’s rare skill, long-standing staff (some of whom have been with them for 15 years) and also their passion for delivering a good service. As she interacts with both the staff and customers, interchangeably with the kind of grace and ease that only she can pull of, the saying “Give a person just enough freedom to be themselves and watch the magic that will happen thereafter” comes to mind. It’s obvious from how comfortable and friendly the staff are that this is true for Tocknell Engravers.
Anne says her family business prides itself on honesty above all, not just with the employees but also with its customers. Now and then, they have difficult customers but that’s nothing for the Tocknell matriarch who says the years she has spent in the business have made her come to appreciate the good with the bad. “It’s all part of life- I just aim to please even the difficult ones, never counting the losses on my side but always thinking about our brand at the end of the day. No matter what, we must make our customers happy,” she exclaims.
Compiled by Pulane Choane & Mark Steenbok
Bloemfontein is limitless when it comes to possibilities. There’s something to do, eat, drink or buy every day of the week.
The Best of Bloemfontein Readers’ Choice Awards celebrates all this and more but, it also gives you the chance to tell us what and who’s the best of the best.