Café culture is changing Kirkcaldy’s town centre

Coffee shops are growing in number across Fife and Kirkcaldy finds itself at the forefront of a cultural change. Pic: Pixabay
Coffee shops are growing in number across Fife and Kirkcaldy finds itself at the forefront of a cultural change. Pic: Pixabay

Fife is tapping in to the coffee cafe culture.

New figures have revealed a huge growth in coffee shops and cafes across the Kingdom with the number of businesses more than doubling since 2010.

Mike Lowe at Cupcake Coffee Box - one of the big hits in the High Street.

Mike Lowe at Cupcake Coffee Box - one of the big hits in the High Street.

And that is evident in our town centre where coffee shops have proved to be hugely popular.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, the number of coffee shops and cafes rose from 60 to 125 last year in Fife.

The ONS figures for unlicensed restaurants include coffee shops and fast-food outlets – and market analysts say it is these two types of businesses that are driving the sector boom across the country.

People in the UK drink 95 million cups of coffee each day, up from 70 million 10 years ago, according to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Kirsty and Tony Strachan at Kangus coffee house in Victoria Road. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

Kirsty and Tony Strachan at Kangus coffee house in Victoria Road. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

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Gill and Graham Robertson at Robertsons cafe in Tolbooth Street.

Gill and Graham Robertson at Robertsons cafe in Tolbooth Street.

Mike Cherry, the Federation of Small Business’s national chairman, said: “Crucially, it isn’t just chain stores who are seeing their fortunes rise, but independents are also thriving in this food and drink boom.

“Not only does this help small firms, but also gives shoppers a greater wealth of choice and promotes good healthy competition.”

One independent coffee shop in Kirkcaldy which is continuing to thrive since it opened over three years ago is the Cupcake Coffee Box in the High Street.

One of its owners, Mike Lowe, believes there are two main reasons why there has been a rise in new coffee shops and cafes.

Dean Penman , owner of  Merchants' Quarter Coffee Shop. Pic credit- Fife Photo Agency.

Dean Penman , owner of Merchants' Quarter Coffee Shop. Pic credit- Fife Photo Agency.

He said: “People are turning away from the corporate big chains to the smaller independent businesses which are offering something different.

“I believe one of the main coffee chains dropped six per cent in revenue last year, and some of that, I think, has to do with people choosing instead to go to independent coffee shops.

“We are more of a hub coffee shop – our staff enjoy spending time chatting to our customers, I know a lot of our customers’ names and know what they like to drink.

“And our customers like having a place where they can come regularly to meet over a coffee.

“The second thing is that a lot of people think opening a coffee shop is an easy way of making a living.

“In actual fact it is one of the hardest businesses you can run.

“You see people opening coffee shops and they last for 18 months to two years before shutting because they realise it isn’t as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

Mike continued: “There has been a culture change over the last 10-15 years with more people looking for places to meet where they can have a coffee, a seat and a chat.

“A lot of people now don’t necessarily go out to do shopping, many are going out just for exercise or to meet up with friends and this is another reason why they are choosing to go to coffee shops.”

Another success story has been Kangus coffee house in Victoria Road, opened byTony Strachan and his wife Kirsty.

Opening the business was something he wanted to do for some time.

He said: “I had always visited coffee shops and I love coffee and we thought it would be nice to have our own wee shop.

“There has been a change over the last 20 years.

“Perhaps people used to see coffee shops as being run more by the Italians or the French, but now over here there are a lot more small, independent ones popping up, with some offering different types of coffee to others.

“We have a lot of regulars and we want our shop to be more of a community.”

The boom in popularity has also come as no surprise to Gill Robertson of Robertsons Coffee Shop – one of the mainstays in a revitalised Tolbooth Street.

“People tend to shop online but still like to meet up with their friends and get out of the house,” she said.

“It’s the new going out to the pub for some – a cheaper way to catch up with friends for a chat without having the expense of having to maybe get dressed up, taxi fares etc, they arrange to maybe meet up and have coffee dates instead, which is more relaxed and less expensive.

“We have experienced a lot more groups of people, all of all ages, making Robertsons Coffee Shop, their regular meeting place.”

She added: “It’s been like extending the family.

“You get to know your regulars and they bring along their friends and families and it just grows from there.”

She added: “ I think being a family run small business means we get great support from the public.”

There’s a new face behind the counter at Kendos in Kirkcaldy High Street’s east end

Dean Penman, from Burntisland, has taken over Kendos Coffee Shop, in the east end of the High Street.

The 56-year-old former self-employed painter and decorator, revealed how he came to take over behind the counter.

“I have known Ken for years and he had mentioned to me that he was retiring,” he said.

“In November the idea was put to me and I spoke to my wife about it. I was looking for a change as I have been a self-employed painter all my life, apart from a spell where I had a wholesale confectionary business.”

Dean continued: “Ken ran it as a takeaway but I would like to have more people sit in and use it as a coffee shop.

“I have put in new seating, re-decorated the shop, given it a new name - Merchants’ Quarter Coffee Shop - and at some point I am looking to introduce sandwiches and homemade soup.”

He added: “Merchants’ Quarter is an up-and-coming area and it has had a boost with the independent traders and it is great to be a part of that.”

Dean believes the growth in new coffee shops has come about as part of a cultural change: “It has become a social thing for people to meet up for a coffee.

“ It used to be pubs where people would meet socially but since that has died off and because people’s attitude to health has changed too, they are meeting for coffee instead.

“ People are being drawn back to independent shops and coffee shops are an essential part of the High Street. They keep people in the High Street and give a boost to the shops.”