No sooner had it been announced that the retail economy in north east Fife was thriving than two well-loved St Andrews businesses shut up shop.
Last weekend both cupcake specialist Bibi’s Bakery in South Street and popular restaurant Bella Italia in Bell Street closed their doors for the last time.
From the start of this week, rather than serving diners, the activity in Bella Italia involved packing up and clearing out.
Part of the Tragus Group, Bella Italia branches operate as franchises with independent proprietors.
Although Tragus, one of the UK’s largest casual dining operators, had gone into administration earlier this year, it had reached agreement with creditors in June to secure the future of the group.
No one was available at Tragus or at the restaurant for comment but it had been reported that a decision not to renew the lease for the property had resulted in the closure.
A notice in the door of Bibi’s Bakery announced its bad news, with owner Fiona Pratt, who was also not available for comment, explaining it was not a decision that had been taken lightly and that all orders would be fulfilled. The Bibi’s Bakery in Edinburgh will remain open.
Bibi’s Cafe in North Street has been a separate business, with a different owner, for several years.
On a more positive note, sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger has announced that it is to open a branch St Andrews in Market Street in November.
A new clothes shop, Sam Brown, also recently opened on Market Street.
Meanwhile, three jobs at St Andrews’ Phones4U store have been saved with the announcement that its shop is transferring to Vodaphone. Phones4U went into administration almost two weeks ago and the St Andrews store is one of eight Scottish stores moving to Vodaphone.
Councillor Tim Brett last week reported that a national survey of vacant town centre properties found that only 4.74 per cent of St Andrews shops were empty, compared with a Fife average of 16.15 per cent.
Stuart Foulkes, chairman of St Andrews Merchants’ Association, said he was always sorry when a business closed, but commented: “New businesses are great for the town and will give variety and make St.Andrews a unique and interesting shopping experience.”
However, he expressed concern over the shift in balance from retail to restaurants in the town: “It’s certainly a major concern as fewer people will be visiting St Andrews for their shopping experience.”
A steering group has been formed in St Andrews to explore the setting up of a business-led BID initiative to strengthen the local economy.
That Pret a Manger is to open in St Andrews was not welcomed: “Come on planners, give us shops we need, we need more variety,” commented Jane Willett on the Citizen’s Facebook page. “Visitors will stop coming as we are a town of charity shops and coffee houses.”