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Vitrex's History

Vitrex's head office and factory in Johannesburg

Vitrex' Predecessors

Hendler Seaporcel, a subsidiary of Hendler Ltd., a large family owned company, had, since the mid 1950s, manufactured vitreous (also referred to as "porcelain") enamelled steel chalk writing boards, and, under licence to Alliancewall, USA, vitreous enamel infill panels for curtain walls.

From 1970 to 1984 Seaporcel held a dominant position in the ever expanding vitreous enamel school chalkboard business, supplying approximately 70% of South Africa's requirements.

During the 1970s, with B.Yawitch as CEO of Seaporcel, the product range was expanded to include changeroom, shower and toilet cubicles, both in vitreous enamel steel and melamine laminate; sophisticated writing board systems for tertiary education, commerce and industry, under licence to Weyel KG of Germany, in both vitreous enamel steel green boards for chalk and vitreous enamel steel whiteboards for dry wipe pens, and also including a wide range of pinboards; vitreous enamel steel bathtubs using steel shells imported from overseas; and vitreous enamel steel cladding panels for export to Hong Kong and Taiwan as wall coverings for various Stations on their Rapid Rail Underground System.

In 1980 the Hendler family sold the company and, at the end of 1984, Alan Friedman, Boris Yawitch and Jorian Catzel, all Directors of Hendler's, and Franco Bellavia, Factory Manager of Hendler's, left the company and formed Vitrex (Pty) Ltd.

The First Vitrex

Vitrex had negotiated an agreement with Alliance of Belgium to manufacture their range of vitreous enamel writing boards. However, a depreciating Rand made this uneconomic, and Vitrex , early in 1985, acquired the business of Architectural and Engineering Contractors (Pty ) Ltd. ( AEC ), which, for 14 years, had been a competitor of Seaporcel in the chalkboard business, holding approximately 25% of the local market. AEC fabricated their chalkboards at a factory in Witfield and had these enamelled at a vitreous enamel jobbing facility.

Vitrex, now with it's own factory employing 22 workers was, by March 1985, able to compete with Seaporcel, concentrating on the vitreous enamel writing board market.

Vitrex made steady inroads into Seaporcel's share of the market and in early 1987 acquired the stock, equipment and trademarks of Seaporcel which then ceased to operate. A major part of the equipment was Seaporcel's enamelling plant which was installed in Vitrex's newly purchased building in Jansen Road, Jet Park.

Vitrex was now able to manufacture the full range of products previously made by Seaporcel and achieved steady growth, year by year. Having removed it's main competitor Vitrex was now in a dominant position in the local market. During 1988, supply and installation work commenced on a number of major export projects in Southern Africa and the Far East.

In March 1991, Vitrex was sold to a Public Company listed on the JSE (Toco Group) and the original partners of Vitrex entered into 3 year service contracts, leaving the company on the expiry date of their contracts.

During the period 1994 to 1997 Vitrex's holding company found trading conditions increasingly difficult and, by 1997, considered it necessary to dispose of certain of their subsidiaries.

Vitraglaze Enamelling

In March 1995, Boris Yawitch and Klaus Holzapfel, who had been Enamelling Manager at Vitrex, acquired the business of Vitraglaze Enamelling Systems C.C., a minor competitor of Vitrex, which at that time employed 12 staff.

Vitraglaze competed with Vitrex and, month by month, obtained a greater share of the market at Vitrex's expense which, by 1997, had become increasingly unprofitable.

Discussions ensued between Vitrex and Vitraglaze which eventuated in an agreement whereby Boris Yawitch, Klaus Holzapfel and Rodney Narotzky (Company Secretary of Vitrex's holding company), acquired Vitrex, effective March 1998, and merged the operations of the two companies.

The Current Vitrex

As part of the agreement referred to above the three partners also acquired the factory building housing Vitrex's operations. Portion of the factory building was occupied by Bitcon Industries, a manufacturer of fire-rated doors, security doors, lead lined doors (as protection for personnel from x-rays), and very large scale sliding doors, and Bitcon was also acquired a short while later, becomming a division of Vitrex.