Elm Row institution Valvona & Crolla celebrate 85 years in the business

Anxious shoppers who have frequented the store throughout their lives held their breath as managing director Francesca Mackie locked up for the weekend

Monday, 27th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 12:26 pm

Elm Row’s Valvona & Crolla celebrated their 85th year in business with a “gentle facelift” in the shop last weekend.

Anxious shoppers who have frequented the store throughout their lives held their breath as managing director Francesca Mackie locked up for the weekend, in fear the shop that they know and love would lose it’s quintessential Scottish-Italian charm they knew so well.

But breaths of relief were heard when it was revealed that the work was more on making the shop more sustainable – and they even brought back a working coffee machine to the front of the shop.

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Francesca scales the fixtures which have been there since the 1930s

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“We’ve been trying to respect the history of the shop and also respect our customers memories and experiences,” Francesca said. “The main driver behind the revamp was our sustainability course which we have been working bit by bit across the company for a good number of years.

“It started with our packaging, so sourcing sustainably and making sure things can be recycled and the main part in this shop is we have replaced our refrigeration so its environmentally friendly and efficient.”

People of Edinburgh will know the Elm Row establishment for its authentic ties with the Scottish-Italian community, as well as its towering shelves and fresh top of the range produce.

Their newly installed coffee machine brings back memories in the shop

“It was my great grandfather, Alphonso Crolla, who started the business and opened the shop in 1934,” she added. “During the the war, because a lot of Scottish soldiers fought in Italy, they ate Italian food over there and brought their taste home and there became a yearning for Italian ingredients.”

After Alphonso passed away, Francesca’s great uncle Victor took over until the early 1980s when her father Philip took it over and began to expand the shop, and what it offered.

And history is preserved in the shop, with wall fixtures behind the counter which date back to the 1930s.

Francesca knows the shop inside out and remembers being a child in the Elm Row venue. “There was lots of little mezzanine levels, and I remember we were in the shop and tossing sugared almonds and interacting with the customers and the banter, sometimes if I was lucky I’d get to count the pennies. The shop was just a part of life. There’s a coffee machine in the front of the shop again with the same blend there used to be. I remember when my dad came home from work smelling like coffee – now I come home to my kids smelling of it.

“It’s like those memories are coming back and being invigorated, and we wanted that in the shop, for it to be not nostalgic – but joyful and forward thinking. It feels the same as always – but just slightly different.

“So many of our customers have been coming here for years, they came with their grandparents when they were children. So for me family is people my age that were served by my grandfather. It’s such a unique experience.”