Despite growing concerns about the number of empty premises in the town centre, Michelle Nicholson and William Beattie of Sweet Sadie’s Ice Cream and Desserts say they struggled to acquire a vacant shop at The Midsteeple owned by the council.
Addressing Tuesday’s meeting of Loreburn Community Council, William said: “We wanted to make you aware of how hard we thought it was to get a shop in the High Street.”
Explaining how they sought a shop from which to run their home-based business delivering ice cream and sweets, he added: “We thought to begin with it would be pretty easy, because there’s a lot of empty shops.”
But stating they were made to feel as if they were just ‘hassling’ property owners, some of whom did not even respond to enquiries, the couple eventually targeted the former toasties shop at The Midsteeple, owned by Dumfries and Galloway Council.
However, William described ‘countless’ emails and voice mails, and he said: “We just felt like we were getting ignored, and we thought, ‘How can this be, because the High Street is in the state that it’s in?’”
A member Loreburn Community Council helped push forward communications, but the couple say they faced delays in even obtaining keys to examine the property.
Describing a month of almost daily communications, William said: “We were beginning to think to ourselves, ‘What’s happening here? We’re being treated like mugs’.
“We felt like giving up.
“But you look at the empty shops and think, ‘Is this what’s happening to the High Street? Are people not getting the extra push towards having a shop?’”
The couple have now acquired the keys, and council ward worker Chris Woodness expressed regret at the situation.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that that’s the experience that they’ve had, from Dumfries and Galloway Council’s side.
“From my part, that’s the last experience I would want any member of the community to experience.”
Mr Woodness added: “It shouldn’t require this level of chasing. You should be able to get your response and everything addressed, unless of course there’s a requirement for processes to follow and committee procedure which is then time structured.”