Building a business from the ground up takes hard work, dedication and passion. No one knows this more than the Hirsch family. Most are familiar with the impressive stores sporting the blue “HIRSCH’S HOMESTORE”, but have you met the local faces behind this beloved brand?
Born in Johannesburg, Allan Hirsch and his family moved down to the KwaZulu-Natal coast, where he grew up. In fact, Allan was one of the first pupils to attend Umhlali Primary School on the North Coast. “I didn’t shine in school. After struggling through high school with very poor grades, I decided to become an apprentice appliance technician,” he explains. He worked with Fuchsware for five years, learning everything about refrigerator repair.
In his early 20s, Allan met Margaret at a party, and their whole lives changed.
Margaret was born in Zimbabwe, but her parents were from KZN. After her father died when she was only 11 years old, her family moved back to their home province and ended up in Pietermaritzburg where she attended Russell Girls High. After school, she became a shorthand typist. A few years after meeting, the couple married, despite some parental disapproval!
“Margaret insisted that I see an educational psychologist, who told me that I wasn’t ‘stupid’ at school – I was dyslexic. It was an incredible relief to me and was a great boost to my self-esteem,” says Allan. With this newfound confidence, they decided to go on their own and start their own business, Hirsch’s.
“We set up our first shop 44 years ago in a showroom, no bigger than a bathroom, on Umhlanga Rocks Drive. We sold stoves and fridges while Allan did repairs in the area. When the microwave came on the market, we saw its potential and started cookery demonstrations to show the public what an amazing time-saving device it was. They loved it! They also loved the fact that we went out of our way to make their lives easier. The name ‘Hirsch’ became synonymous with service excellence,” says the couple.
The family legacy continued when, in the early years of Hirsch’s, Richard and Luci were born. “I literally grew up in the business,” says Richard. “Some of my earliest memories are of me in the back of my dad’s blue bakkie as he went to customers’ homes to repair their appliances. I did my homework in the store every day. Some people may have found it challenging, but I absolutely adore my parents and sister!”
Although it was tough balancing family life and a successful small-business-turned-brand, the Hirsch family stayed very close throughout the journey. They enjoyed (and still enjoy) lots of Sunday lunches together and are in constant communication with each other. As the business grew even more, so did the family. Luci and Richard both got married and made Allan and Margaret proud grandparents to five grandsons!
After just over four decades, Hirsch’s Homestore is still run by the family – Allan as Chairman, Margaret as Executive Director, and Luci as Brand Manager and the Voice of Hirsch’s. Richard has worn many hats. “I was a Store Manager and then took over as the KZN Regional Manager. My mom had always been the Managing Director, but one day she announced that she would like me to take that position. As the company has grown, my parents took on the role as our founders and chairmans, and I took over as CEO,” explains Richard. “I thoroughly enjoy being involved in the business, especially in the appliance industry. To me, it’s the best job in the world.”
Today, the Hirsch family are still Umhlanga locals. Allan and Margaret love to spend time with their grandsons and watch them play sports. Allan won the Standard Bank KZN Businessman of the Year Award in 2021, and Margaret received her MBA at 70 years old and is busy doing her PhD! Luci and Richard both love entertaining and cooking and are kept on their toes by their sons.
With even more expansion on the way, the Hirschs are proud of what they have achieved thus far, all based on their values of honesty, integrity and loyalty. “Our highlight is getting to work with our family every single day.”
Words: Jordyn Trollip