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Quénet's Family Pharmacy

Helping Worcester get better since 1868

As far as I have been able to ascertain as I unfortunately never really investigated the history of Quénet's Pharmacy from my parents. My information is based on snippets of talk, from written facts and from labels on old medicine bottles. The pharmacy was started by Mr. A.H. Bull in 1868. Mr. Isack Meiring, pharmacist and land surveyor became a partner, the pharmacy being run as Bull and Meiring Chemists and Druggist Worcester. While Meiring was on holiday in Britain, he met up with George Alfred Quénet, who had recently qualified as a pharmacist at Edinburgh University in 1893.

Meiring offered Quénet a work contract in his pharmacy in South Africa. As a young pharmacist, this issued a challenge to move to a new country. He was a sibling from a family of thirteen children. It was therefore necessary to become independent. At this stage, South Africa was very much in the news with the discovery of gold and diamonds. He arrived in Worcester in 1894 and ran the pharmacy for the period of his contract. He moved off to Beacons Field in Kimberley for a short period, before returning to join Meiring as a partner.

The pharmacy being run as Meiring and Quénet Druggist. The pharmacy then know as Meiring and Quénet was in Church Street, where the Biesenbach hall is presently situated. When Meiring left the pharmacy to practice Land surveying full time, Quénet became the sole owner extending the pharmacy to incorporate photography. Trading under the name of GA Quénet Chemist and Druggist.

George Alfred married Hermina Catharina (Minnie) Pallas from Montagu on 15 March 1899 in Worcester. Three sons where born from this marriage. Louis, the eldest, qualified as a dentist in England. Vincent, the youngest, became a lawyer, then promoted to become a judge and knighted by the Queen while living in Zimbabwe. As his father, due to the depression was dubious of the future in pharmacy, his middle son, Leon, was sent to California to study dried fruit and canning industry as a career.

Upon returning to Worcester he was not able to use this knowledge due to the financial state of the economy so he went into business with his father concentrating in photography. After Leon had bought a vacant plot on the corner of Meiring and High Street where he built his home and settled, with his wife Violet Myrtle Olive Halse.

The De Jongh building in High Street came on the market and was purchased by Leon in 1934. This is the present site of the pharmacy. His father who had been loath to move away from Church Street realized that it was necessary to make a change and relocated to a more business orientated area. He opened the pharmacy next to his son with an inter arch way. Leon continued running the photographic, music and pottery shop at the same time becoming involved in the pharmacy, Brandwacht medicine and the unfermented wine business which was originally started by Isack Meiring who used to export this wine to England.

In 1944 Leon and his father formed a company known as Brandwacht Medicine (Pty) LTD which manufactured an extensive range of patent medicine. Some of which are still sold in the pharmacy today. After the death of George Alfred Quénet on 7 December 1946, Leon was faced with a big problem as he had inherited a pharmacy, but was himself not a qualified pharmacist. This problem plagued him for the rest of his life as he was always dependant on keeping ever demanding pharmacists happy and working for him. This became an obsession in his life, so much so that his eldest son George Alfred had no choice but to qualify as a pharmacist. History always repeats itself, Anton too had no choice in which career he would follow.

George became an apprentice to Colin Smit, his master, at Quénet's Pharmacy. After two years he went to Cape Town where he graduate in 1960 and came to work for his father. This was the happiest day in the life of Leon. His responsibilities were now over and the business continued trading as Quénet's Pharmacy (Pty) LTD. The business grew; the shop enlarged by incorporating the shop next door. George took in an apprentice, Bennie Muller, who later became a partner. Theo Daily also became a partner. This happy partnership lasted for twenty five years, until the death of Theo. Bennie immigrated to New Zealand. Having the two partners gave George the time to open the hunting and fishing shop which was completed in 1972. This worked well as hunting was also one of Theo's interests. In time Theo managed the hunting and fishing shop, again giving George time to pursue his work as a councilor. The original George Quénet in Worcester was very involved in civic affairs and served as a councilor from a young age. George followed in his grandfather's footsteps, becoming a councilor in 1974 and Mayor from 1991 till 1993.

Enter the fourth generation into Quénet's pharmacy. Anton Alfred graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1988 with a B. Pharm degree. He completed his apprenticeship at Constantia pharmacy before joining his father in Worcester. The pharmacy has continued to grow due to Anton's diligence and hard work. his innovative ideas resulted in his achieving an award for the best pharmacy in the Western Cape and third place in South Africa.

The pharmacy has been very fortunate in that the pharmacist's wives have all become involved in their husbands business. Violet, Leon's wife, introduced cosmetics as a full department. Yvonne, George's wife, worked during the Christmas seasons behind the counter and Gaby, Anton's wife is very involved in staff appointments and internet banking. The success of the business has been largely due to staff retention. Some members have worked a lifetime in the pharmacy for which the directors are deeply grateful. Quenets pharmacy is proud of over a hundred years of service to the community of Worcester and is still striving to be so.

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