Always larger than life
Published: 1st Nov 2019
Obituary: Mike Gedye, MD, Michelle Footwear (04/03/1950-25/09/2019)
It was my first day of school in South Africa. That was the 4th term of 1963 and a good-looking blonde guy walked up to me, extended his hand and said “Hi, I'm Mike Gedye”.
We sat next to each other throughout our Grosvenor High School years, often swapping sandwiches (he always had peanut butter and fig jam while I always had polony and piccalilli).
We decided we would read for an engineering degree at Howard College and duly enrolled in 1968. He lasted 3 weeks and said “I'm out – this isn't for me”.
I didn't see much of Mike while I was studying. He started working at the Arcadian Shoe Factory in Jacobs as a production trainee and progressed to a sales rep. When the factory shut down, he purchased some of the equipment – from memory a few sewing machines and a clicking press, all of which went into storage. During these years he was actively involved as a youth leader at St George's Presbyterian Church on the Bluff where he met Wendy Ewels, a nurse, and they married in 1972.
We again started socialising after his marriage and my graduation in electrical engineering, playing water polo and hockey together. In 1973 he and Wendy bought our home in Gray Park Road, Brighton Beach, from my mother.
Mike had become the Natal agent for Hang Ten and used his garage as a warehouse and distribution centre. Prem joined Mike and ran this side of the operation. He also acquired the Studio ladies’ shoes agency. It was also at this time that he became active in the affairs of the Bluff Country Club, rising to the position of club chairman.
It was here that he suckered me into becoming the club's treasurer – I soon established that the bar was a “community finance centre” and that the club was insolvent. Mike and I managed to secure moratoriums with the major creditors and we (with assistance) successfully traded the club out of insolvency. I had earlier met Wendy’s younger sister, Charmaine and we married in 1978 while I was the treasurer at the club. A year earlier Mike and Wendy’s son Lloyd son was born at Addington hospital, and their second son, Warren, was born in 1979.
Shortly after my marriage, Mike hit on the concept of the Strippy ladies' sandals and asked if I would join him in as a partner making these.
1978 GL Footwear became operational and we moved into a small, dingy old warehouse off Balfour Road. I ran the factory with Prem and the ever-so-elegant Mrs. Maxwell joined the team as book keeper. The successful Strippy sandal was soon superseded with the even more successful LA sandal.
The demand for the LA was so great that we would frequently airfreight orders to the Transvaal (the SAR&H had a transport monopoly in those days and operated at a snail’s pace!)
We soon outgrew Balfour Road and moved to the first floor of a building in Chamberlain Road. During these years many faithful and long serving people joined GL Footwear as factory operatives, supervisors and managers. Arthur Dyson, Dave Abbott, George Moodley, to mention a few (memory fails me here so I apologise to those not mentioned).
The business continued to grow, and we expanded onto the 2nd floor and thereafter to a floor on the adjacent building and GL Footwear was renamed Michelle Footwear.
Around 1983 we decided to build our own factory and in the second half of 1985 moved into the current factory at Harden Avenue.
Tags: Mike Gedye