Cecil Nurse


In 1940, during World War II, Cecil fought with the South African forces in North Africa where he was captured at Tobruk and sent to a prison of war camp in Italy.  Managing to escape from the horrors of war camp, he spent two years ‘on the run’ in Switzerland, returning home to his family in 1945.

In 1946, after gathering experience in a variety of jobs and having a strong desire to run his own business, Cecil managed, through the financial assistance of a close friend to start Cecil Nurse (Pty) Ltd – trading in household furnishings.

The excitement of running his own business was soon forgotten when in the following few years he experienced many difficult and financially stressful times.  His boundless enthusiasm, good business sense, coupled with a superb selling and trading ability, together with the backing of an understanding wife, never allowed him to contemplate giving up in favour of working for a boss.

Instead, to augment the income of the furniture business, Cecil constructed a series of hothouses in the backyard of his home and began growing a variety of indoor plants, with a view to selling them from door to door to businesses in central Johannesburg.  He employed two assistants with specially modified platform bicycles to sell the home-grown plants, little realising that his was the very first indoor office plant business in South Africa.  While establishing his furniture business this little venture was often responsible for keeping the wolves from the door.

With his wife, his eldest son and one salesman the business grew and a client base was established among the wives of prominent businessmen in the financial heart of Johannesburg.  Cecil started getting calls for the odd office desk or chair or filing cabinet.  This led him to realise the potential of diverting fully into office furniture which would present greater opportunities than the household furniture business.

Cecil came up with the idea of publishing a printed office furniture catalogue – something that did not exist at that time in South Africa.  It was 1960…a new decade…a new venture, and for Cecil Nurse, a new passion.  A passion that lasted until his death.

Cecil Nurse office furnishers was born as a family business.  His wife, two sons, two daughters and son-in-law were all members of the staff.  From that time the business grew to become the largest and certainly the most innovative and successful office furniture retailer in South Africa.  

Cecil Robert Nurse died in 1983 at the age of 68, one year prior to the business being sold to the Clifcor Group whereafter it finally found its home under the Bidvest umbrella.

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