Business leader’s call on townsfolk to support Kirkcaldy High Street

Dom Panetta, owner of the Migele Experience, which has just re-opened on Whyteshouse Avenue, kirkcaldy July 2015
Dom Panetta, owner of the Migele Experience, which has just re-opened on Whyteshouse Avenue, kirkcaldy July 2015

That’s the rallying cry of Dom Panetta, long-standing Kirkcaldy businessman and chairman of the steering group which helped set up the Kirkcaldy Business Improvement District (BID).

Dom, owner of Migele Experience hair salon, said that although the M&S announcement had come as a huge shock to the town, it was an opportunity for some “out of the box thinking” and new ideas to help reinvent the area.

And he suggested a pilot project reintroducing traffic to the town centre; more units given over to housing; better parking; more small, independent retailers like those in the former McDonalds unit and a concerted effort to bring a cinema to the town centre as a starting point.

He also mooted the idea of closing the ailing Postings and even the Mercat Shopping Centre as a measure which could help to fill up the empty units along the High Street, moving the current retailers into them.

“I know it is very radical thinking and many people would think I was mad to even suggest it, but that may be what is needed to bring the life and buzz back to our town centre, and now is the ideal time to start thinking outside the box,” he said.

“Just sitting back and moaning about how bad things are isn’t going to help.”

Dom started his hairdressing business in Kirkcaldy’s Tolbooth Street in 1986, after moving from Buckhaven.

He then expanded into the property next door, and, in 2007 opened up a second salon in Whytehouse Avenue. However the timing was wrong and he decided to close Tolbooth Street which was too big and keep the smaller place.

A bridal shop is set to open in the former Tolbooth Street unit, and he is seeking planning permission to turn the other properties into flats.

“We need more people to go back to living on our High Street because where there are people then shops will follow,” he said.

“I have always been involved in the High Street in one way or another and I am very passionate about it.

“I am on the board of Kirkcaldy4All and was previously on the Kirkcaldy Town Centre group, and the steering committee which set up the BID, so, as well as having my own business here, I have a real interest in it.

“We have the longest High Street in the UK and I don’t think we will ever fill every unit. We could get angry at the M&S closure but that isn’t going to change and we have to get on with it and help turn our High Street’s fortunes around.

“Every town and city in the country is struggling, it is not just here. Fife Council made the big mistake of allowing our traditional High Street shops like Next and M&S to move to the retail park which may have been okay if they were not far from the town centre, but ours is miles away.

“People’s online shopping habits aren’t going to change, so we have to look at other ways to bring in people to the centre and provide something that the retail parks can’t, be that a cinema, housing or smaller independent retailers which are doing very well in the units at the Cupcake Coffee Box.

“It is important that we all stay positive. Occupancy rates in the Merchant’s Quarter are pretty high, and there are lots of little specialist shops there. That kind of niche market looks like the way the High Street has to go.

“If we also got a cinema and the King’s Theatre off the ground and some attractive parking initiatives then it would be a real boost.

“Kirkcaldy4All has done a great deal for the town centre, bringing in wi-fi, marketing the area, getting the parking reduced for the trial period and bringing events like the Beach Highland Games, and it is a great mouthpiece for all the traders.

“I want to ask the people criticising the High Street if they actually come down and spend money here. It is up to us to do our bit too. We cannot leave things the way they are. We must support our High Street.”

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