Current owner, Derek Smith, served his apprenticeship with the original company L Draper & Sons, where he worked for 35 years. When he became a partner in the business the name changed to L Draper, Smith & Sons, and Smith took over the company about 15 years ago.
The Smith family itself has quite a history in plumbing: Derek is still working, son Sheldon is a director of the current company, and older brother, Lea, is a recent former president of the Gauteng Master Builders Association (GMBA).
Derek Smith & Sons operates mostly in the Pretoria region and, according to Sheldon, there is hardly a street in the city centre where the company has not been involved in the plumbing. Some of the landmark buildings the company worked on during their construction include the Volkskas building, the original Sunny Park shopping centre and apartments, Poyntons building, and the old SA Mint which has now been converted into a museum.
“We operate mainly in the commercial and industrial sectors,” says Sheldon. “One of the biggest projects in which we have recently been involved was the revamp of Sunny Park: a conversion of the flats into a Holiday Inn Express plus apartments. The conversion had to be ready for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, with a very short contract period and most of the materials coming from overseas.
“This was a challenge. We were dealing with a new type of water pipe, the sanitary ware was all imported, and the drainage system specified was HDPE,” Sheldon recalls.
He says that Derek Smith & Sons is one of the oldest members of the GMBA and it finds the association especially helpful in assisting with labour related and legal questions.
As well as its high standards and workmanship in plumbing Derek Smith & Sons prides itself on the long service of its employees and its long-standing safety record. The first man employed by Derek Smith recently retired after 35 years’ service with the company. A consistent focus on safety has seen the company win many safety awards and it was only in 2010 that it settled the first Workmen’s Compensation claim in its history.