When interior-decorating fundi Terry Harrewyn-Howard and her chef husband Nick Howard moved to Port Alfred in 2000, they couldn’t find “a single decent thing” for their new house, “not even a toilet-roll holder”, says Terry (‘decent’ meaning arty and unusual, as opposed to purely functional).  Seeing an immediate niche in the market, they started two businesses, stocking everything one couldn’t usually find in Port Alfred.

Begin with the End in Mind specialises in arty, unusual, stylish and/or quirky kitchen and houseware, and Maison Décor in handmade imported furniture hand-picked by Terry from Bali and other countries in the Far East.  Her emphasis has always been on unusual, quality, handmade items.

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Terry has an unerring eye for bespoke, eccentric beauty and creativity. She also knows her market intimately, because of her warm, genuine interest in people and the world around her, and has a natural talent for arranging and decorating interior spaces.  If you’re in need of interior decorating advice, Terry will come to your home and advise you, free of charge.

Begin and Maison both moved to Van Der Riet Street a few years ago, where Terry and Nick share premises in one of the earliest homes in Port Alfred, a gracious wood-and-iron building.  Begin with the End in Mind occupies three large rooms, choc-a-bloc with beautifully-arranged, exquisite household items, kitchenware, women’s accessories, art and gifts. Nick’s ever-popular restaurant, Graze On The River, occupies the back of the house and the garden, where one has a choice of undercover or open tables, and – Nick’s latest innovation  – a private nook with a built-in outdoor sofa.

The two businesses dovetail perfectly, as shoppers invariably drift through to the restaurant for excellent coffee, small-batch-roasted by Nick himself, and home-baked goodies, or breakfast, lunch or supper.

Begin with the End in Mind and Maison Décor – which occupies a large space next door, at upholsterers Patcraft (the two premises are joined by a paved footpath) – have both been stocked to the hilt, in good time for the pre-season influx of holiday-makers and annual ‘swallows’.  Terry has brought in a wide selection of gifts in the ‘secret Santa’ price range: superb-quality treasures for men, women and children from R50 – R200.  Most of the gifts have been handmade in South Africa by small manufacturers, mainly women.

Terry focusses on high-quality goods paired with value for money, so a morning, afternoon or evening spent emptying your wallet at Begin is one you’ll enjoy for years to come.  This year you will be able to choose from a variety of top-quality home-made candles, ceramics, kitchenware, cosmetics, sandals, accessories and jewellery from a wide range of suppliers, as well as a selection of handmade women’s underwear from Mieke’s Knickers of Long Street (Cape Town) fame.

There are handmade wooden games for children, bespoke braai packs for men, as well as a small range of men’s cosmetics, including a moustache wax for marvellous moustaches (and Movemberites)!

Begin are also stockists of Emthunzini Hats, endorsed by CANSA because they offer such excellent sun protection.  Despite their practicability (they wash beautifully, are uncrushable and come in every colour under the sun), they are also elegant and fashionable.

In addition to Maison Décor’s customary range of imported handmade furniture, they have also stocked up on Kelims and Persian carpets this year.

As a pre-season gift to locals, Begin, Maison and Graze will all be staying open till 9 p.m. every Thursday, starting this week (30 November) and from 15 December their business hours will be 08h30 till late, every single day, except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Begin and Maison will close their doors only once the last diner has left, so you will be able to browse at leisure between courses.

Watch this space for a soon-to-be-published article and review on Nick Howard’s festive season menu.  Begin with the End in Mind Maison Décor can be contacted on 046 624 8095, or find them on Facebook at Maison Décor.

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