Forever Edinburgh: Business owners says reopening ‘feels like winning Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket’

The day we have all been looking forward to is finally upon us as lockdown restrictions finally begin to ease and Edinburgh can welcome back visitors and locals alike to discover new attractions, shops, and hospitality in the Capital.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 7:00 am
John Bain owner of Bains Retro Sweets (Alan Simpson Photography)

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Today, thousands of business owners who have spent months preparing for the lockdown easing by putting measures in place to ensure that we are all safe can finally lift the shutters and open the doors and welcome us back.

With dozens of fantastic local businesses and attractions, we are spoilt for choice in Edinburgh so the easing of lockdown offers a chance to discover something new, or rediscover an old favourite.

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Council Leader Adam McVey and Depute Leader Cammy Day have wished businesses and operators well as they get ready to open their doors.

Council Leaders have been looking forward to a safe, sustainable reopening of the economy, and many of the city’s health and leisure venues.

From today, hospitality, non-essential retail and gyms, including Edinburgh Leisure centres, can reopen, with restrictions in place and leaders have wished businesses and operators well as they get ready to open their doors.

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “We’re doing everything we can to support businesses, whether that’s our licensing officers working to provide advice and guidance or with partners through our City’s Forever Edinburgh campaign, which is inspiring people to enjoy all the Capital has to offer.

“We’re also gearing up to welcome people back to our libraries and cultural venues in the coming weeks, places I know many people have sorely missed, and we’ll soon be publishing plans to open their doors again, starting with the Central Library. Edinburgh Leisure will be reopening their leisure centres and swimming pools too, and I know a huge number of people are looking forward to getting back to their local facilities.

“We’re all excited about a sense of normality being returned, as well as the chance to socialise with friends and family in the sun. Let’s enjoy responsibly, continuing to stick to the rules and taking care of our outdoor spaces, keeping COVID cases low, preserving our beautiful green spaces and helping Edinburgh to recover safely.”

Depute Leader Cammy Day said: “Together we’ve endured an extremely difficult year, responding to changing restrictions and strict lockdowns which have been immensely challenging to our mental health and, for many, their financial situation. I want to take this opportunity to recognise the sacrifices and adjustments made by the many businesses across Edinburgh during this time, and to wish them well as they reopen.

“Thanks also to our residents, who have worked so hard to observe the guidance in place, helping to limit the spread of this virus – their efforts have been a crucial factor in our ability to gradually lift restrictions. We know what an impact the changes we’ve experienced have had on people’s quality of life, so I hope that the forthcoming reopening of libraries, cultural venues and, from next week, Edinburgh Leisure venues and gyms around the city, will provide a much-needed boost.”

And Edinburgh businesses, many of which haven’t traded since Boxing Day are delighted to welcome customers back.

His customers call him Willy Wonka - and sweet shop owner John Bain says finally being able to reopen to customers today (MON) is like holding a golden ticket.

John, 65, has run Bains Retro Sweets in Edinburgh's Grassmarket for seven years, but like many other shops has had to close for much of the last year.

Nearly four months after he last served a customer, on Boxing Day, John has spent thousands of pounds restocking his shelves and filling more than 250 sweetie jars with every confectionery imaginable.

John said he has missed chatting with his customers as much as they have missed their Chelsea Whoppers, Creamola Foam, Coulter's Candy and bonbons.

He said: "I've stuck by the rules religiously and taken every safety measure there is but I'm really looking forward to seeing my customers again and hopefully getting back to something a bit more like normality.

"I've had the shop for seven years and, after all the hard work I've done, I feel like I'm right back to square one. But it's not all about money, the thing I'm looking forward to most on Monday is just welcoming my customers back to the shop and seeing smiles on people's faces again.

"Our customers aren't just young children and their families, we have just as many older customers who like the older sweets like Victory V, Fisherman's Friend and Chelsea Whoppers -- I used to buy a penny whopper every day when I went to school and now I sell them.

"Sweeties hold happy memories for people and everyone who comes in and rediscovers a retro sweet from their childhood likes to reminisce about it. My big objective is to make their visit a memorable one.

"Some customers call me Willy Wonka - getting to reopen is like having the golden ticket."

John, whose wife Denise is also a partner in the business, employs two part time staff in the shop who John describes as "invaluable" to him.

Bains Retro Sweets is home to quite possibly Edinburgh's biggest lollipop, at four feet long. He's also famous locally for his sour sweetie challenge as he photographs the expressions on customers' faces for the shop's Facebook page.

His other claims to fame include his displays of classic Scottish retro sweets and treats including 20 different flavours of Creamola Foam, and the book he has compiled on sweetie ingredients and allergens.

During lockdown, he also became known for his generosity as he twice donated around £1000 worth of stock to NHS staff, nursing homes and shops providing free food deliveries for those in need.

John added: "I'm so proud of the NHS and frontline workers for the way they have dealt with this pandemic, right from the start. I don't think they are always appreciated the way they should be."

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