Wednesday, 19 October 2011

On the map

The Grassmarket is a great place. It's got a reputation as a bit of a drinking den, which may still be true to a lesser extent, but I think that does it a huge disservice. It's more than that, and always has been. It has an amazing history, some lovely architecture and - obviously - a proliferation of interesting, independent businesses. Its mix of little shops, cafes, restaurants and bars make a visit a very different experience to walking along a town high street or through a modern shopping mall. A bit of character, not a list of familiar brand names and logos.

Small businesses are by nature more susceptible to trying financial times - it can be difficult to weather lengthy downturns and there has often been a bit of swapping around in the area as shops close and new ones fill the gaps. While there are a few empty premises at the moment, things have been relatively stable of late and I believe the Grassmarket is beginning to see its status and profile climb a little.

Last week, The Guardian added Edinburgh to its popular City Guide feature in the online Travel section. For these, it selects ten businesses in a few categories, writes a brief review and marks them on a map. A linked accompanying article collates the reviews. Mr Wood's Fossils makes the list of Independent Shops, which made me very proud, but also included were three other Grassmarket traders - Hannah Zakari, Deadhead Comics and I.J. Mellis, the cheesemonger. Red Door Galleries made the Craft & Vintage section, The Grain Store is in Restaurants, Under The Stairs in Cocktail bars and The Last Drop in pubs. Transreal Fiction, my old neighbour, and Anaglogue Books have also been featured by the same newspaper in the past couple of weeks. Publicity like this - unpaid recognition on merit alone - is a fantastic boon for small businesses like these and hopefully will help build the Grassmarket's reputation as a place to spend a few hours browsing shops, having lunch or just wandering around.

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