Be it hand-painted china, charming pastries or worldly collectables, Stefano and Terri-Anne Toffoli’s charming business, Churchill House, bustles with a love for all that is artisan.
Over a delicious cappuccino adorned in heart-shaped cream, Stefano reminisces about their adventure in creating a sanctuary where Italian hospitality meets bohemian vintage.
“Moving to South Africa was purely business”, he insists.
A designer who originates from Verona, Italy, he met his South African wife, Terri-Anne, whilst working as the managing director of Luxottica – a premium fashion group responsible for the likes of Ray-Ban, Prada, and Versace.
The two fell in love and married and dedicated themselves to loving and supporting each other wherever their passions may take them – which turned out to be all over the world.
After returning to Italy as newlyweds, the couple worked in their respective design fields. It was after one of many globe trots and an 11 month stint at another fashion group in Tokyo that Stefano and Terri-Anne decided to return to Durban, Terri’s hometown, for a new adventure.
“We wanted something different in this hot city near the beach”, Stefano remembers.
He was on the brink of taking a job in real estate before fate, and a voracious thirst for good coffee, led him to Churchill House and The Antique Café.
“I came to this exact building and had coffee like the people you see here now, and that was it, that was the beginning of Churchill House as you know it right now”, Stefano says. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Churchill House was for sale – a sign that Stefano describes as “the first calling”.
After a few visits to the charming coffee shop, Stefano and his wife decided to grab the opportunity with both hands and buy Churchill House. Their idea was to start off small and simply grow the business step by step, taking full advantage of the tranquil and romantic atmosphere of the house.
The Toffolis kept the coffee shop’s name- The Antique Café- and then combined their respective design backgrounds to create a unique shopping experience for both the stomach and soul. Stefano saw to the wines and furniture (both on display and for sale) while his wife handled the fashion and accessories.
One look at the place and you can see the expertise, time and care that went into creating the quaint, vintage haven on Churchill Road.
“Like every job, there is a lot of work behind the scenes”, he says in his charming Italian accent. He’s talking about the long hours spent running the business and maintaining its beautiful home that comes complete with rustic arrangements of mismatching chairs, crockery, and trinkets and fascinating nooks and crannies.
“Although we started off as a couple, we slowly added new people and their brands to Churchill House”, Stefano continues, referring to the brands that have been included in the eclectic Churchill House family.
These reflect the Toffolis’ love for vintage and commitment to artistry and include the unique designs of Carol and Clarke, the yesteryear fashion of Vintage Quirkiness and Cadman & Baily, handpicked antiques, the South African gifts of growing brand Shoppy and the fresh flowers of Flower Power.
Churchill House is about to celebrate its third birthday not just as a cosy trip down memory lane with a heart and tummy warming café but also as a successful business venture. … and that’s not all the Tofollis are celebrating. Clearly having put down roots once and for all, they are now proud parents of 9 month-old Arturo Romeo and well on their way to creating a family business.
Even though Churchill House is a business built on the magic of yesteryear, it is also about continuing to reinvent itself in the here and now. “At the end of the day, it is a shopping experience and, in order for it to be a good one, you need to make it interesting”, Stefano adds.
With live music acts every Saturday and regular cultural events, he has taken his business beyond the confines of a retail outlet and coffee shop and created a venue that is known for its artistic appreciation – and, of course, the best beestings in town!