How it began
Abloom Bush Lodge & Spa Retreat was founded in 2006 by Lowie and his wife Carmen Geenevasen – Tecklenburg. Lowie, born in the Netherlands was owner and creative director of Geenevasen Geenevasen advertising till 2005. After 25 years in the advertising world he was ready for something new and dreamed of owning a B&B in his beloved Italy.
In 2004 he also started a cooking studio where small groups could come to eat a fantastic 5 course gourmet meal that they would cook themselves under the passionate guidance of Lowie as the chef. Cooking has always been his passion and in 1995 he joined a professional cooking club for amateur chefs. Over the years he there received his medals and ended up as the head chef of his sector.
Carmen, born in New Zealand moved back to the Netherlands with her Dutch parents when she was 3, immigrated back to New Zealand when she was 13 and back again to the Netherlands a year later. So traveling has been in her blood since childhood. Working as a General Manager for a municipal law enforcement department she was actively involved in leading a few radical reorganisations in her company. During her demanding job she started studying again and received a Master’s degree in Stress Management (industrial psychology) and a Masters in Change Management. It was this last study that brought her to South Africa for a study trip. A trip that would change her and Lowie’s life’s forever.
From Italy to Africa
After joining a study group to South Africa Carmen returned a different person and homesick for a country she only visited for 2 weeks. Upon return she pressured her husband into coming on a sabbatical to also experience this beautiful country Carmen was so smitten with. Lowie understanding that he could not leave his business for 6 months without it losing customers made a deal with Carmen. They would sell their beloved farmhouse in the Netherlands, sell the advertising business, go to South Africa for 6 months and on return would buy land in Italy to bring his dream to life to start a B&B there.
Carmen who didn’t speak the Italian language and wasn’t quite ready to slow down her life opted that she would work in the Netherlands just a couple years more expanding her career and would commute between Italy and the Netherlands in the weekends. A life changing agreement was settled and their farm house was sold, 2 containers packed – one for Italy and one for the Netherlands and Carmen arranged a leave of absence at work for 6 months.
When traveling in South Africa Lowie also fell in love with the country and on a sunny morning Lowie made the great suggestion to not go to Italy where they would live apart for most of the week but both stay in South Africa where he would start a B&B and Carmen could work as she spoke the English language well enough. This was music to Carmen’s ears and they immediately started to look for land. It had to be in Gauteng where Carmen would easily find work. Lowie wanted a piece of land with a koppie and Carmen loved the bushveld. They searched for weeks and weeks, traveled from the Magalliesburg to the east of Pretoria and stumbled upon a lovely farm just outside Cullinan.
From Italy to Africa
Then their sabbatical came to an end, on the day they departed back to The Netherlands the papers for the sale of the land were signed. With tears in their eyes they left the country but with a warm heart knowing that they would be back soon. Lowie returned after 2 weeks to settle the sale and start designing his B&B. Carmen stayed in The Netherlands for another 5 months to finish a project at her work she committed to.
On the 4th day Lowie stayed on the farm he received a phone call from a neighbour while he was out that there was a big fire and he had to hurry home. When he arrived home the farm was in flames, they managed to save the old farm house but every other building – 8 chalets – were destroyed in the fire. Lowie was devastated and initially had serious doubts if this was a good sign to start his new dream. A couple of days later he re-grouped and started designing. What was initially meant to become a B&B, got extremely out of hand and by the time he was finished with designing he had planned a luxurious and exclusive lodge.
Builders were contracted and the project began. Carmen joined Lowie in December 2005. In October 2006 the first suite was ready, built with local builders and lots of hard work from Lowie. Carmen initially worked as a consultant for the first couple of years but when a nearby Spa closed its doors they decided to take over some staff and start a spa at Abloom. Carmen having her international diplomas as a therapist herself took the lead in the spa, eventually stopped her consultancy all together to focus on the lodge and spa.
Abloom Lodge changed into Abloom Bush Lodge & Spa Retreat and within 8 months of opening their Spa doors Abloom was awarded a prestigious spot in the top 10 of the best small spas in South Africa by Health Spas.
…and so the dream continues!