Mr. Des Fontaine opened the Klerksdorp sport store in 1955 with ten of the most illustrious tennis players of the time in attendance, including rivals for the top spot Pancho Gonzales and Ken Rosewall. Since then, he has seen many sport stores open and close in this North West mining town — but Des Fontaine Sports (aka Sports365) remains packed with youngsters and their parents buying sporting equipment. Many drive from neighbouring towns to shop with us.
That, despite defying many of the rules for running a modern day store: they are not situated in a mall, the store layout is more ‘50s retro than 21st century modernism and Des relies on memory rather than a sophisticated computer system to keep track of stock.
“If you’ve paid for something, you remember where you put it,” he says, whilst taking an item form the shelves with unerring accuracy. Bruce, who now runs the store, does make use of a computer.
During WW II Fontaine had been a telegraphist and radio communicator, stationed in De Aar, keeping the lines between Windhoek and the Cape open. After the war he spent two years on the road for a clothing company, but when his tennis partners, the Hamill brothers, opened a sport store, he did not think twice switching jobs for a princely sum of £50 per month.
When the building where his current store is located was built in 1955, the then owner asked Fontaine if he wanted to open a sport store in the complex … an offer which he accepted. He now owns the building.
In those days his monthly rent was £80 and on a good day sales amounted to £100 he remembers. Rackets were strung by hand.
But he found time to fish, play tennis and badminton – aged 82, with a bad knee and after a triple by-pass operation, he regretfully can no longer participate. Bruce played club hockey and soccer, but now love canoeing and long distance running. He has done the Dusi 4 times, the Midmar Mile 10 times, ran the Comrades and cycled the Argus. He also enjoys sailing on the dam in Potchefstroom.