Hout Bay’s “crocodile man“ Robert Brückner welcomed customers to his equipment-hire shop on Monday with lemons from his garden and sweets as he celebrated his 80th birthday.
Famous for his pies, especially those made with crocodile meat, hence the nickname, Mr Brückner suffered a number of strokes last year that left him paralysed on the left side of his body.
Sarah Sewell, his wife of 25 years, says that with determination and physio, he is now able to walk and spends most days at work.
Born in Carinthia, a southernmost state in Austria, he qualified as a baker, confectioner in 1963 and later as a welder. He says he learnt a lot about machinery from his father who worked as an engineer.
Mr Brückner came to Africa in search of adventure. He moved to Hout Bay in 1974 and started a bakery, but due to staff problems and the pressure of being a one-man show, he sold it.
Meanwhile, he had seen how the building industry was expanding and how people wanted to borrow a ladder, concrete breakers and drills. He bought what was a house and gradually added on to it, taking many years to build it into a business. Eventually, he bought the house across the road, which is now used for parking, a showroom and storage.
Over the years, he has accumulated a vast horde of equipment that he hires out. The shop also does repairs.
As for unusual items, he has a Leica microscope and metal detectors, which he says are popular for finding treasures on the beach.
Mr Brückner says wherever he goes people recognise him, especially as the “crocodile man”.
He got the idea for the crocodile pies from a Table View restaurant which found that crocodile steak was successful. So he added it as a filling for his pies.