Supermarket dominance a Gray area in Comely Bank

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Having a major supermarket virtually on your doorstep is not necessarily a bad thing for the local independent trader.

Since opening their own cafe and gift shop in Comely Bank last year, husband and wife team Steve and Elaine Gray have benefitted greatly from the footfall generated by their much larger competitor.

By sticking to their own vision and creating their own brand, the couple have already built up a loyal following of regulars for their new venture, Pure Gray.

A former pupil of Flora Stevenson Primary and Broughton High School, Elaine knew the area well and immediately recognised the potential of the shop – previously know as Connect Cafe – when it became available.

Its proximity to Waitrose – as well as local schools and a residential home – was definitely one of the draws.

In the past year, she and Steve have worked hard to increase the kerb appeal of the premises, creating an outdoor seating area with planters, along with other improvements.

This, combined with a new menu and a greater selections of gifts, appears to be paying off.

“We are opposite a supermarket that gives away coffee, but people chose to come in here for the relaxed atmosphere and the quality of our produce,” says Steve.

“Having a supermarket as a neighbour can have its issues, but you have to make it positive. The fact that we are so close to Waitrose just means there are more people for us to entice in.”

Having previously given up a guest house venture to focus on the family, Elaine is delighted to be back in business now that their children are older. Steve, a retired bomb disposal expert, is also relishing the challenge.

“Since taking over we have increased revenue by 50 per cent by improving our offering in terms of the cafe and selling high quality gifts for all occasions. Customers seem to like the fact that they can come in for a coffee and take time to browse,” he adds.

As they approach the first anniversary of the business, the couple are confident they can sustain their early growth. “We really appreciate our lovely customers and our regulars are fantastic; some of them coming in five times a week,” says Elaine. “The support and the positive feedback we have received has been really heartening.”

Pure Gray Cafe and Gifts, 153-155 Comely Bank Road, 0131 315 2003. Open 9am to 5pm seven days a week.