Plugged into success

THERE is no doubt Rafi Sevilya is a hands-on businessman. Whether he is hauling boxes into trucks for deliveries, haggling with suppliers for decent prices, directing staff or helping clients in his store, the owner of Rafi'sappliances and mattresses store never stays still for long.

"I have a passion for my work. When I get up in the morning, I am excited to come to work and I love what I do.

"That's important in business – if you do not like what you do, go into another line of business. It's not always about the money," Rafi said.

Originally from Turkey, Rafi says he was working as a technician in Israel when he came to South Africa 30 years ago to visit the family of his late wife, Renee. "I am still visiting," he chuckles.

He started in the city by installing airconditioning units in vehicles and then decided to go into the appliance repair and sales business. After four years of trading in Kempston Road, he moved to the Perridgevale shop most Port Elizabeth residents originally knew.

Celebrating Rafi's 28th birthday this year, Rafi said in 1997 he decided to stop the repairs side of the business and focus only on sales. He extended the Perridgevale shop three times before moving into new premises in West Street, Newton Park, seven years ago.

"The move paid off and we grew the business on a large scale. Now we sell appliances, televisions, beds and have also branched out into a furniture gallery upstairs.The business is based on a high-volume, low-margin retail principle and we try to maintain our slogan: 'We give service'," Rafi said.

He says many of his 14-member staff have worked for him for more than a decade. Rafi says he expects his team to help customers return to the store by building personal service relationships with them.

"When people ask me why they should buy at my store and not somewhere else, the answer is that we give good service and the best deal in terms of price, aftersales service and backup.

"We try to be No1.

"Another reason is that the money spent at independent shops in PE stays in the city instead of going to the stock exchange like with most of the chain stores."

Rafi attributes a lot of his business success to the team work he enjoyed with his late wife, Renee, who died last year after a short illness.

His two daughters, who he said "grew up in the shop", both now live in Cape Town.

Maayan helps with managing the finances of the business while Sigalit and her husband, Ivan, opened an appliance and beds store in Cape Town called Ivan's three years ago.

"I love watching their business grow. It reminds me of when we started. I visit once a month and work in the store with them. They are doing really well despite being surrounded by competitors in Claremont."

He said he enjoys working in Port Elizabeth because the "people are fantastic and it is a real friendly city".