Traders in Cumnock are looking forward to a bright new future, as 7 brand new units near completion at Townhead Street, in an innovative scheme, funded by East Ayrshire Council, which will give new vitality to long-established family businesses moving from the soon to be demolished Glaisnock Centre.
Shopkeepers Isabel Robertson of Knit One Kids Too, and Christopher Ross of Ross Electricals, who are among 5 new owners due to move into the state of the art development, took a chance to visit the site and see the progress being made for themselves.
“We’re delighted to see the building taking shape” said Isabel, who started her wool and children’s wear shop in 1984. “I can’t wait to see daylight and have a shopfront on the street! It’ll be great to feel part of the rest of the town centre again. Since the Glaisnock Centre has been winding down it’s been quite quiet. We’re confident with all the passing traffic on the new site we’ll get much more business from established and new customers.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything but this, I started with wool and now baby and children’s wear is the biggest side of my business, but I still love the wool too. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the town but to me the best part of my job is the people, I’m now serving clients who came into the shop with their mums as babies and they now have wee ones of their own. I’m often dealing with several generations of the one family and they’re more like friends than patrons. So much so I’ve already had around 50 of my customers offering to give me a helping hand on moving day!”
Christopher Ross, who first worked in his shop, Ross Electricals at the age of 9 agrees. “Cumnock’s real strength is its people, and being independent traders one thing we can really offer is an exceptionally high level of personal service. That’s the one advantage we have over online or big chain retailers. If an elderly client wants us to take ten minutes to deliver and fit a fluorescent light in their kitchen we’re happy to do it. It makes our job more enjoyable. We’re very aware that while it’s a small job to us, it means a great deal to them. And like Isabel I’m often working with people who knew me as “the boy” in my father’s day!
“All of us who’re moving are looking forward to being part of this new development. It’s so well designed and the great advantage is with excellent insulation and modern heating systems and the absence of a maintenance charge our overheads will be lower – that’s a great boon for any business. It turns Townhead Street into a proper two-sided shopping street and the businesses across the road are as excited about the new shops as we are.
“In a wider sense this is all about the regeneration of the whole town centre. My dad opened the shop in 1977 and we’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go in that time, but this development, along with the proposals to link car parking on both sides of the river, will help secure the future of Cumnock as a viable market town, especially as increasing numbers are drawn to Dumfries House and its associated businesses. The vibe in the town is altogether more positive, as people recognise that small businesses offering great service are the way to go. We’ve come to a realisation that the only way to get things done is to organise ourselves and work together to see what can be done to bring about the improvements we need. That’s why I’m delighted that we’ve just formed the Cumnock Business Association (CBA) and I’m very excited about our future plans.”
Marion Gilliland (pictured) whose card, gifts and homeware business, Gilliland & Co, faces the new development, also started in the business young. “I can still remember serving my first customer aged 9, in what is now my shop,. My mum owned it and the till was up so high I had to stand on tip toes! I sold a dishcloth and a tin opener – I was so proud!”
Marion is Chair of the new CBA. She explains “We’ve deliberately called ourselves a business association rather than a retailers group because we recognise that so many other non-retail businesses are a vital part of town centre life. It’s been an eye opener to realise that there are over 160 businesses based in Cumnock, and it’s amazing even to someone like me who’s Cumnock born and bred, to realise the huge diversity of companies on our own doorstop. We’ve already had an enthusiastic core of members join us, but we’re hoping many more will come along. There’s strength in numbers, the one thing that sticks out when we talk to each other is that we’re all passionate about the town and our customers. Together we can work with partner agencies such as East Ayrshire Council and Dumfries House to ensure we make the most of every opportunity open to our town.”
Councillor Jim Buchanan, Cabinet member for Economy, East Ayrshire Council said: “It’s great to see this Cumnock development nearing fruition. Like all regeneration projects it has taken a great deal of time and effort from many people to get it off the ground, however, the enthusiastic attitude of the new occupiers and the clear passion they have for their town and customers makes it very obvious why this work was so necessary. The opening of these new shops is proving a great catalyst for renewed vigour in the town and the inauguration of the Cumnock Business Association is a major step in helping the business community to build on their unique circumstances and maximise their success. This is regeneration in action, providing buildings that are fit for purpose and spurring people on to improve life for themselves and their communities.”
To find out more about Cumnock Business Association, contact: Marion Gilliland on 01290 423837