Cafe Anton celebrates half a century – and is still in the family

One of the oldest and most well-known establishments in Swakopmund, Café Anton, is more than 50 years old. The café, which is situated in a prime location in the centre of town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, celebrated the grand anniversary on 7 May 2016.

For the anniversary many guests from Swakopmund and all over the world were invited to celebrate the special occasion with the owners. Amongst the guests were many residents from Swakopmund, who have been part of the establishment since the beginning and have seen the café evolve into what it is today. Some of the guests were also former waiters and workers, who shared their experiences in the café and described the founders, Mr. and Mrs. Anton, as the most humble people. The café is now run by Heidi Snyman and her two daughters Desirée Snyman and Silvia Kleyenstüber. While also recognizing long standing workers on the special occasion, Heidi Snyman gave a history of how exactly her parents came to Namibia and how the café came into being. Here follows an extract of her speech:
The Story of Café Anton and Family Anton
“In 1954 my dad, Manfred Anton and his mother Lisbeth immigrated to the then South West Africa. They had family here and my dad had already, before they left Germany, worked as a master baker and confectioner at the Putensen Bäckerei, where Café Treff was located until a few weeks ago! My mother arrived in 1956 in Swakopmund, also from Germany and she worked at the Strand Café with Mr and Mrs Schiessl. My dad in his off-time baked cake at the Strand Café, where he met my mother! In 1958 they got married. In 1959 I was born and in 1960 my sister Marion. My parents’ dream has always been to own a little Guesthouse with a Café. In 1965, they bought this piece of ground from Mr Kaiser. They did not have enough money to purchase the ground, where an old house was located on, so my mother’s previous employer Mr Pruter gave her a blank cheque with the words: “Mrs Anton, you can fill in any amount!” What employer would do that? Within a few months, my parents established four rooms on the first floor – the first four guestrooms. Four rooms in a new building were added with the Café and a small kitchen! The Café was opened on 7 May 1966!
At that time there were seven other Cafés in Swakopmund: Strand Café, Lido Café, Brücken Café etc. My parents had just opened, and some prominent well known Swakopmunders, who owned a Hotel, walked past the then new café and said very loud so my parents could hear: “They will close down very soon and this place can be bought very cheap!” My parents named the Café: KONDITOREI & CAFÉ, but quite soon the customers named the Café: CAFÉ ANTON – so we later took the name over!
These two businesses, the Hotel and Café, were always very work-intensive for all of us! My parents worked long and hard hours. My dad worked many nights starting mostly his work between midnight and 3 in the morning! The first oven was a coal-oven. This can be seen still standing outside the café till this day. At night my dad baked all cakes using that oven and for breakfast he had to be mostly finished with the cakes, as it was then used for the breakfast eggs. Only many years later did my parents buy a new bakery oven and by then my dad also got his own bigger bakery! In 1984 my dad received an Honorary Award from The Handwerkskammer Köln in Germany for his work and training in the bakery and confectionary profession outside Germany! Many young and also older people helped us during all these years! It were a lot of people. Thinking back I like to mention people like Jerry Klosta, Axel and Uwe Paetzold, The Grüttemeyers, the Mengs, Harry Louw, Bernd Kühne, Jürgen Holzmann, Urban Schulte, Mrs von Mosch, Charly Biess, Harald Berner, Surina and many many more! Many of the students, who worked with us came back and still up till today I hear: “We learned a lot working here! Not only to work with people, but about neatness, discipline, fairness and to work with money!” And the work did not hurt any one of them, nor my sister or me as children. We had to help since we were young. Sometimes we did not like it, but it certainly did no harm. In fact, the exact opposite is actually true.
After school I applied to become an airhostess, but I was too young, so I went to the Hotel School in Johannesburg. At the end of 1981 my mom got very sick and asked me to come home, as the high-season was ahead. I resigned and went home! I am now back 35 years and still in the business! It was easy for me, as I said before, I was growing up in the Hotel and Café and I always had to help when it got busy. That way many of the usual work at the Hotel and Café became a second nature and even if I was sort of forced into the business on the request of my parents, I love this job, still until today! Even if I do not have to get up early anymore if I don’t want to, I still love to get up early to go to work at the Hotel and Café! In February 1982 I married André Snyman, who was then still working at SAA. He left SAA in April/May and joined us here in the business. In 1984 Silvia was born and in 1986 Desirée. We worked with my parents until 1990 when my parents retired. First we renovated the Café and then the whole Hotel. These cost extensive amounts, but we managed!
André was a very versatile person! My dad trained him as a confectioner and André later trained Junius as a confectioner! Junius is still working here with us and has trained more staff. In 1998 André died at an age of 44 after an operation. I then managed the Hotel and Café on my own, but always had super staff who assisted me on all levels. We had ups and downs in the business in the 50 years, sometimes big rocks and sometimes smaller ones to get over! Extremely good times, but also hard and difficult times. Fortunately one forgets, but from time to time one remembers and especially at these occasions: My grandmother Lisbeth, who I loved very much and who taught me many skills, like all the different types of needlework, gardening and cooking. She died far too early. André’s death was also far too early. And let’s not forget the bomb, which was planted in the Café about a year before independence, which fortunately did not go off – even after handling the briefcase quite a lot. In 2007 Silvia joined me. She studied Hotel Management and achieved a Degree and in 2010 Desirée joined us. She is a hairdresser by profession, the same as the professions of my father’s mother and father. Desirée, knowing the basics of baking since a young age, went to Germany to perfect baking in many ways and is now looking after the bakery. She brought a new wind into this Café with a lot of new types of cakes. I never forced my kids to join me in the business. It was done out of their own free will and I enjoy them working with me extre-mely. It’s a pleasure to have them here with me!
Café Anton and its cakes are well-known across the whole world today and we often receive articles from various countries with the Café in it or letters and postcards from guests from other countries! What I must maybe also mention here: Over all these years we had loyal friends, who always helped us to get certain equipment, which was and is not obtainable here in Namibia. I would like to thank them: Jürgen and Gaby Holzmann, Sven Holzmann, their son, who is like a brother to me which I never had, Evi Riegg, Jürgen Haist, Dagmar and Rainer Hog! I would like to thank our suppliers and we have some loyal long-standing suppliers like Baumgart, South Bakels, Komnik & Frank and many more who we have a business relationship for just about 50 years. Baumgart definitely! I now thank all my staff for their good work and loyalty, especially those who have been here for many years. And here I mean everyone! Thank you! Also a big thanks to my family and I am glad that we all work together so well. Also thank you Heiner, who just had to become part of the Family and Hotel if he wanted to or not. Let’s not forget some very loyal friends: Coenie, Doris and Klemmi, Diethard and Ulrike, Kücki and many more! From March 2016 my two daughters have joined me as partners in the business.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login