A new shop has opened in Lerwick’s Commercial Street, in a move which is hoped will restore confidence to the town centre as it recovers from the Covid-19 gloom.
Island Larder has opened its new outlet in the premises previously occupied by Smith’s of Lerwick.
Owners Magnus and Nicola Johnston are hopeful support from the community will make up for the lost tourism trade this year which has vanished as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The venture marks the realisation of the couple’s business ambitions, which first showed fruit seven years ago with the acquisition of Shetland Fudge.
Things have been steadily developing since then, with the Island Larder brand later being launched with the acquisition of the Beervana shop in the street – the licensed outlet which was run by businessman Stuart Fox before he went on to open The Dowry.
Now, coronavirus has undoubtedly caused problems for the growing business.
The lockdown forced the couple to close their previous premises earlier than they had planned, leaving an uncomfortable gap between the old shop’s closure and the new opening of the new outlet.
On the firm’s books are eight members of staff, although the majority of them are on furlough at the moment.
The couple say they have thrown everything into the project, which aims to support local produce, and they hope people in the town will see the benefit in it, too.
They say they have been encouraged by the massive support they have received online in recent weeks.
Efforts are being made to give shoppers confidence by offering hand sanitisers and a one-way system.
“We planned this before coronavirus when we had cash-flow,” said Nicola. “We had a forecast we knew was going to be okay. So much has been going out. We are relying on locals – right now it’s locals we need to help us out.”
Asked how much the couple were ploughing into the project, she said: “Everything we’ve got. And there’s no turning back. We can’t stop.”
Magnus added: “Through the summer the majority of our turnover comes from tourism. But that’s not happening this year – I can’t see there being any cruise ships here at all.”
The shop supplies fruit and vegetables as well as other goods such as dairy, dried pasta and frozen produce. A key focus is on reducing waste, with the business avoiding the use of plastic packaging.
Plans are in place to offer a street-food take-away service in the coming months, as well as a cafe and kitchen area. The couple also hope to offer events, such as parties, on the premises.