Our history, in short - already trading in 3 centuries
On 1 October 1894 the “Damara & Namaqua Handelsgesellschaft mbH” was established in Hamburg to carry on trade in the German colony South West Africa. From 1900 until the beginning of World War 1, at times up to 32 branches of this company existed in places such as Lüderitz, Rehoboth, Outjo, Tsumeb, Grootfontein, Keetmanshoop etc. Goods offered ranged from maize to water pumping equipment. An advertisement in the “Taschenbuch für Südwest-Africa” for 1913 provides an overview of the activities of the company at the time. The business was already subdivided for general goods, a technical division, an agricultural division and a mining division.
In Swakopmund the company erected the well-known “Woermann Haus” and the Damara “Turn” as well as the first power station in Southern Africa. The “Afrika-Bank”, with headquarters in Swakopmund, also was part of the “Damara & Namaqua Handelsgesellschaft mbH”.
On 1 April 1909 the company was renamed “Woermann, Brock & Co.”. The first partners were Adolph and Eduard Woermann, Max Brock and Arnold Amsinck, Eduard Wardesky, who had been in charge of the company in South West Africa since 1899, stayed on as general manager of the company, which had its headquarters in Swakopmund. In those days Woermann, Brock & Co. owned a wide strip of erven in Swakopmund as well as numerous properties throughout the country. These were the “golden” years for trade in South West Africa as well as for the company’s Africa Shipping Company, maintained by the mother company C. Woermann in Hamburg.
The outbreak of the First World War on 1 August 1014 put an end to all these activities as shipping of supplies from Germany became impossible. A new start had to be made by the end of the war. The mother company in Hamburg had lost a large part of its capital. Only the branches in Swakopmund and Windhoek continued to operate at a very modest level.
After being in charge of the company for 30 years, Eduard Wardesky past away in 1929 and was succeeded by Wilhelm Brock. World depression as well as years of extreme draught hampered the development of trade. During the latter half of the 30’s, circumstances took an up-swing. However, upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the administration of the company was taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property, almost resulting in the total collapse of the company. Following the war, Wilhelm Brock took charge of the company in Swakopmund and Willem Engberts in Windhoek.
It is thanks to resourceful men such as Ascan Woermann, Wilhelm Brock, Emil Heinrichsen, Willem Engberts, Erich Woermann and Wilfred Matheis that Woermann, Brock & Co. continued to exist. After separating their capital from the mother company in Hamburg, they energetically went about reconstructing the business.
Initially business was carried on in the company’s own buildings close to the present railway depot. Subsequently, while Wilhelm Brock and Emil Henrichsen were in charge, a department store was erected in the centre of town, more or less on the site on which Frans Indongo Gardens is situated today, opposite the Old Mutual Building.
Later the business moved into rented buildings (in the present day building occupied by A. Kriess & Co.). In 1950 Kurt Schmerenbeck in co-operation with Ascan and Erich Woermann build August Schmerenbeck Haus in Independence Avenue, where in 1966 a supermarket with just 3 tills was opened; Woermann, Brock & Co. became only the second business in Windhoek to offer self-service shopping. Clients were intrigued by being able to collect their shopping items from the shelves.
In 1960 Konrad Woermann took charge of the management of Woermann, Brock & Co. Under his leadership during the early 1990’s the business in Independence Avenue was enlarged and turned into a modern supermarket. Branches were erected in Klein Windhoek, Katutura and Olympia. In 1998 he entrusted the management to his sons Jesko and Ingo Woermann and in 2001 retired due to failing health.
In order to satisfy the increasing expectations and demands of the rapidly increasing population in Windhoek, more branches were opened including Eros, Hochlandpark, Khomasdal, Otjomuise, Wanaheda, Ombili, Masego, Soweto as well as 3 stores Rehoboth.
Further developments includes the reconstructed /Ae //Gams branch which now covers more than 2000m² as well as the massive Woermann Hyper Wholesaler in Khomasdal.
Ignoring the opportunities in the northern regions of Namibia would be unlike Woermann Brock and subsequently a large wholesaler now serves the Ondangwa whilst Oshakati is covered with a supermarket as well as a separate wholesaler.
The Woermann legacy continues...