Kimberley, South Africa


Brown & Awerbuck Families

Brown family, Harry, Bennie, Harold and Ivor

Awerbuck family, Raphael and Frankie

Compiled by Geraldine Auerbach MBE from a wonderful article about Harry Brown and Raphael Awerbuck, the originators of the famous Kimberley wholesale firm - reprinted from the Diamond Fields Advertiser (DFA). The picture was kindly supplied by Delia Benn (née Brown daughter of Icky)

The firm AWERBUCK AND BROWN & Co (Pty) Ltd, General wholesalers, in Transvaal Road, was established 1932 after a partnership in Kimberley fisheries from 1907.

Both Harry Brown and Raphael Awerbuck were born in Lithuania and their families were old friends. Brown immigrated and prior to the Boer War, worked in Johannesburg. At the outbreak of the War he left Johannesburg for Cape Town. He met and married his wife at Paarl. In 1907 they decided to go back to Johannesburg and on route stopped over in Kimberley.

He met Raphael Awerbuck on the Market Square, where Awerbuck had established a small business in dried fish. Awerbuck suggested to him that they join forces and commence business with fresh fish. This was during July 1907. Awerbuck had been in Kimberley for just one month prior to Brown’s arrival. Awerbuck’s proposition made Brown change his mind about going to Johannesburg and a partnership was formed. This was the foundation of the present South African Fisheries.

After a few years in the fish business, they branched out into groceries and moved their premises to the site of Potgieters Motors. From this site they moved to 17 Transvaal Road. As the business expanded, it was decided to dissolve the partnership and form a company and the company of Awerbuck, Brown and Company (Pty) Ltd was incorporated on November 23, 1932.

In the early days there was no till or cash slip system in the grocery department. Both Brown and Awerbuck wore carpenter’s aprons with big pockets, which acted as tills and at the end of the day each one emptied his pockets and the money was checked and banked. The property they rented at 14 Transvaal Road was put up for sale and they decided to buy it. They agreed to pay £400 for the property and Brown was to do the bidding. The property was finally knocked down to Mr Brown at a figure of £800. But in spite of this terrific increase over the figure mutually agreed upon, Awerbuck’s only comment on being told by Brown of the purchase was a shrug of the shoulders and a laconic “All right”.

At no time did Awerbuck have any idea of what shares Brown had bought nor how much he bought in the Market, but all profits and losses were shared equally between the two partners. On the death of Awerbuck in 1951 the shares were held by the administrators of his estate, but Brown continued to dispose of the shares at his own discretion and all dividends were still equally shared. They also held jointly a 50 percent interest in Lee’s Garage and this investment was a very profitable one.

Harry Brown’s sons Benny and Harold (usually known as Icky), took over in the 40s to 60s with Frankie Awerback, and then later Benny’s son Ivor ran the business.