Cafe and pub owners in Kirkcaldy’s Tolbooth Street won’t let M&S closure hit their businesses

Staff at Robertsons cafe in Tolbooth Street. Pic: George McLuskie.
Staff at Robertsons cafe in Tolbooth Street. Pic: George McLuskie.

Tolbooth Street has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in recent years.

New businesses have moved in, and more are set to follow, making the street busier than it has been in many years.

Owner of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Fiona Shields. Pic: George McLuskie.

Owner of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Fiona Shields. Pic: George McLuskie.

It is braced for any fall-out from the loss of M&S – and hopeful its own customer base will stay loyal.

Gill Robertson, owner of Robertson’s coffee shop, said the closure news was not wholly unexpected given the trend in other towns as people move to online shopping.

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Owner Rosslyn Fawns  at The Bakers Field. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Owner Rosslyn Fawns at The Bakers Field. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

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She said: “Our business is a destination place, so hopefully minimum impact – maybe even a percentage of M&S cafe customers might come to us.

“We have grown and grown since our move to Tolbooth Street four years ago.

“We have continued to thrive with a huge regular customer client base and with word of mouth.

“We have grown as a destination place people want to come to.”

Gill believes if people actively support town centre businesses and stop moaning about the High Street it would help them all survive.

She said Robertsons has a lot to offer locals.

“We offer fresh cooked breakfasts, lunches, home baked cakes and a separate family area to keep the kids entertained – it’s more than just a coffee shop.”

On the issue of what can be done to replace M&S she said: “Another national level business would be ideal but unlikely to materialise.

“A large Primark would encourage a more younger footfall and the cinema project would help to attract social/food and leisure type business into High Street, Mercat and Tolbooth Street.

“The continued promotion of the area, plus car park single lane carriage plan for walking/cycling so parking will help expand this and increase flow up Tolbooth Street and onto the High street. Adam Smith’s heritage should also be promoted and managed better to encourage new visitors to the town.”

Roslyn Fawns, owner of new vegan cafe, The Bakers Field, has develeoped a solid customer base in just a few months.

She said: “Marks and Spencer brings a lot of footfall into the town centre.

“People who enjoy shopping there will travel to other locations in Fife once it closes. This will have a knock on effect on all businesses.”

The vegan cafe has demonstrated how niche businesses can thrive –it isn the top 15 vegetarian and vegan eateries in Scotland just three months since its launch

Roslyn added:“The High Street would benefit from another similar high quality outlet to replace M&S as well as having free parking and lower business rates.”

The Wheatsheaf has been part of Tolbooth Street for many years.

Fiona Shields, owner said: “We all have become guilty of the demise of our traditional high streets, shopping online has become the normal.

“As M&S closes this will bring new calls for investment by new ventures.

“But we are very much open for business, improving in our knowledge of the area, evolving and forever meeting the needs of our customers old and new.

“There are undoubtably calls for rates assessed in a more realistic light and for more thought to be given to parking charges.

“But ultimately it’s down to every one of us to invest in the future.”