Scotland’s local shops are heading back to the future. The greengrocer can no longer compete with the mammoth cut-throat supermarkets – so they need to source unique local produce to tantalise their customers.
Grant Terry might look like an old-fashioned shop-keeper in his blue dustcoat and tie, but he is an entrepreneurial Scot battling hard to make his small business a success story. And he is succeeding. Step into his shop and your tastebuds simply start to jangle with all the colourful array of produce.
There has been a greengrocer in the same spot in Marchmont Road in Edinburgh since 1912, when it was known as Baird’s. In the 1950s, it became D. Fraser McLeod, the name today, and was bought by Grant and his father Alan 27 years ago in 1988. Grant was only a teenager who had just left school – and he drove the white van to deliver to the elderly ladies of Marchmont, who phoned in their weekly orders. He has been an early riser ever since, getting up at 4.30am every week morning to head to the fruitmarket for 5am. The result has been some of the best fruit and vegetables in Edinburgh. However, when cricket-loving Alan Terry decided to retire six years ago, Grant knew he had to expand the range of produce. At first, he and his colleague Daniel Mitchell dipped their toes in the water to see what was selling. But over the past few years Grant has been able to stock the shop with Spanish, Italian and Greek produce straight from those countries, with specialist olive oils and tins of goose fat that are not available in the supermarkets.
“I started to diversify when my father retired. We needed to try something different and it’s been a learning curve for me. We now stock produce that you can’t really get anywhere else in Edinburgh. Now we have a comprehensive range as a greengrocer-deli, and we’ve expanded our more specialist Scottish produce.” Indeed Grant attended the recent Scottish Specialty Food Show at the SECC, making connections with several Scottish companies. He now stocks Reid’s of Caithness shortbread, from Thurso, Hebridean Sea Salt, loved by the likes of chef Andrew Fairlie, Stag Bakeries’ chocolate chip cookies and biscuits from Stornoway, Orkney smoked cheeses, and Argo’s Bakery and fudge from Stromness, also on the Orkney islands.
“Scotland’s best produce is as good as anything else from the rest of Europe. I’m proud, as a Scottish shop owner, to be selling this kind of produce. I like to think we’re doing our bit to keep these businesses alive and thriving. ”He is also looking at stocking an artisan organic chocolate that is made in nearby Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. Grant Terry admits there are very few specialists shops around, but says he has great support from his regulars in his catchment areas. While there aren’t as many spinster aunts needing their weekly shop delivered, there are plenty of students from the universities and two secondary schools.
“They prefer the filled rolls that we make. But if we use Scottish cheeses and relishes, then we are helping too.”
Fraser McLeod remains a local shop successfully flying the flag against the mass power of supermarket society. It’s a shop where you find retail passion among the plums and the polenta.