Johan Badenhorst’s Voetspore 4×4 Megaworld store at Woodlands Boulevard in the east of Pretoria recently celebrated its first year of operation. We caught up with Johan to find out how life as a shopkeeper has been treating him
Johan Badenhorst has been the owner and operator of a 4×4 fitment centre for a little over a year now, but he isn’t new to the 4×4 game by any means. As most readers of this magazine undoubtedly know, Johan has been criss-crossing Africa for more than a decade as host of a 4×4 travel show, and his Voetspore television series has become a favourite for overlanders and armchair travellers alike.
The Voetspore team have clocked up more than 200 000 hard kilometres travelling through Africa, and this has given Johan a unique perspective on what “works” when it comes to overland travel, and what doesn’t. The team have camped, cooked and kuiered in some of Africa’s most inhospitable and isolated spots, so they know how to make life in a difficult environment not only tolerable, but pleasant.
This extensive knowledge and experience inspired Johan to create a 4×4 fitment centre last year – but not just any fitment centre. He wanted a store with a unique style and attitude.
“Because of the television show, people have been approaching me for advice about overland travel in Africa for years,” says Johan. “I’ve always been happy to help, but I eventually realised that a store would provide an ideal opportunity not only to provide overland enthusiasts with advice, but to really help them prepare for their trips.
“When we started out on our first Voetspore trip, we took a lot of stuff along that we never actually used or needed. Now, more than 10 years later, we know what you need when travelling in Africa. We know how vehicles should be kitted out, and what camping gear is truly useful.”
This knowledge applies to all items needed for overland travel, not only the big-ticket items such as canopies, special suspension systems and roof-top tents.
“We try to stock everything that makes life on the road easier,” says Johan. “We have things that we think work well, and that we use ourselves when travelling. For example, we sell potbrood and roosterkoek mixes that allow you to make your own perfect bread by simply adding water. We also have other clever items such as good quality sauces in bags instead of in glass bottles that can break, and filter coffee with disposable filters that allow you to enjoy tasty coffee on the road.”
Of course, it isn’t only the unique items that attract people to the Voetspore store. The chance to speak to an experienced (and famous) overlander such as Johan is also a big attraction, and he welcomes questions from customers.
“I really enjoy talking to customers,” says Johan. “I like offering advice. Also, we often receive useful information from people who have visited places we’ve never been to, so interacting with like-minded people who visit the store is always an enjoyable experience.
“We want the store to be a sort of ‘clubhouse’ that overlanders can visit whenever they feel like a chat, or simply want to see what new camping and 4×4 accessories are on offer. We always have free coffee for those who pop in.”
So how has the store evolved over the last year?
“It has been an interesting year,” says Johan. “The shop has grown and evolved. At first we stocked only items that we used ourselves, but our catalogue has expanded to include any items we think are clever and useful.
“Although the 4×4 accessories remain our bread and butter, we have grown to become more of a lifestyle store. We stock clothes, cookbooks, maps and any other outdoor-related items.”
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Johan’s store keeps him busy, but that doesn’t mean he has been neglecting his other endeavours. Last year the Voetspore team travelled along the equator from the east coast of Africa to the west coast, and that journey is being aired on SABC2 at the moment.
Johan also recently released another cookbook, this one co-authored with his wife Alma. And, of course, he and his team will soon be hitting the road again.
Where will they be heading this time? “We’ll be travelling the length of the Great Rift Valley. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll set off in September.”
Until then, Johan will be manning the shop. “I try to be here on Saturdays and Sundays as often as possible,” he says. “If anyone wants help in planning their next trip, some fitment advice, or simply to have a cup of coffee, I’ll be here.”