Here’s looking at you, Hester…

“You have to love what you do…” says Hester Fritze, owner of Francocel Coffee Shoppe and Hester is a shining example of someone who loves what she does.

Born and bred on the Bluff in Durban, she comes from a long line of women with a passion for baking and grew up helping out in the kitchen.

“It must be in the genes,” says Hester proudly as she recalls with great fondness how both of her grandmothers loved to bake and family events, such as birthdays, traditionally went hand in hand with hours of preparation in the kitchen, cooking and baking treats for family and friends.

At the age of 16, she moved to Standerton with her family where she met her husband, Christiaan, three years later.
“I was a singer and he was in a band,” reminisces Hester as the memory of their earliest encounter elicits a loving sparkle in her eyes.

The couple dated for four years and relocated to Vereeniging, where they married in 1985. Of this union, three musically gifted children were born: George, Estiaan and Xanell Fritze, who are now three quarters of Vryheid’s own super talented hard rock band, Bridge6.

In 1997, they moved to Vryheid and Hester began working at Sign Centre, but baking remained in her blood and she dreamed of owning her own coffee shop. She mentioned to her husband in 1998 that she would love to own a shop like Francocel.

Hester 3


Shortly after Pick ‘n’ Pay opened in Vryheid, Christiaan, who worked at the municipality at the time, was approached by his boss, who had been asked by the owner of Pick ‘n’ Pay if he knew someone who could bake. In response, Hester took samples of her baked goods to Dirk at Pick ‘n’ Pay and her efforts paid off.

“They ordered about 40 cakes and lots of sausage rolls,” Hester recalls. “I baked the whole night! But I delivered the cakes the next morning and the sausage rolls that afternoon. I was exhausted after that, but it grew from there.”

Hester’s dream was realised in September 2010 when Christiaan, who had not forgotten her words from two years before about her aspiration to own a shop like Francocel, in a somewhat romantic gesture, purchased that very same coffee shop for his wife.

Francocel Coffee Shoppe, nestled cosily in the NBS Building at 135 High Street, near the Klipkerk, has grown from strength to strength over the years and Hester attributes the success of the business to the support of her staff and family.

“My staff carry me through,” she beams with pride, “and my children are always ready to help out at the shop whenever I need them to.”

Hester 1

At the mention of her children, Hester’s eyes light up and her pride in them and their achievements is unmistakable.

Her daughter, Xanell, who is the youngest of her three children and bass guitarist for Bridge6, had this to say:

“I would have to say my mom has worked her b*tt off to get that shop from where it was to what it has become and known to be today. There were tough times, but she just pulled through and kept the faith that she will make a success of it. She’s always thinking of new ideas to make it a better place and to make the customers feel welcome when they come to the shop.”

“She works incredibly hard and always gives 100% no matter what the circumstance or situation,” she continues. “She is always friendly, that is something she masters without difficulty because that is just the kind of person she is. Loving, caring, considerate, understanding and also just the best mother in the world.”

“I’m sure my brothers will agree with me on this…”

Elaine Rodway

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