Small towns are a neglected topic of study but they are gaining importance in South Africa because of rapid urbanisation. This paper discusses a case study of business development and gentrification in Aberdeen, a small town in the Eastern Cape’s Karoo. Although there has been a long-term decline in Aberdeen’s economy, major changes are now taking place that call for more focused development policies. The findings of a 2006 business survey in Aberdeen are presented here and integrated with findings from the international literature on small town development. The paper shows that endogenous development of a small town’s economy by its business sector can lead to some local economic growth; however, it needs to be assisted by judicious government investment. Aberdeen’s economy will need a stronger level of municipal guidance to exploit its strengths and overcome its limitations.