Interior designer says ‘sense of community’ is vital as she opens high street shop

A shop in Forres high street which has been a butchers, dry cleaners, antique shop and hairdressers is now seeing a new lease of life as it re-opens as Finishing Touches, selling interior and lifestyle goods.

Isobel Kirkland, originally from the West Coast, moved to Forres to ‘retire’ near the sea. But as a lifelong self-employed business owner, retirement plans stayed packed and she chose to buy the shop at 45 High Street to go back to her roots in interior design.

She explained: “As a west coaster born and bred I missed not living near the sea with access to wonderful beaches. I had chosen this area many years ago for my ‘retirement’  having friends that moved here.

High Street history

“As a keen gardener, I love the longer gardening season than I experienced living in the Cairngorms! Not ready to completely retire I chose to open a  shop as a semi-retirement business, and the opportunity to buy this lovely little shop at 45 High Street came up. It was originally built as a butcher’s shop, later as Pullers of Perth followed by Low’s antique shop and then a hairdressers.

“To follow in this history of the building what better than a haven of beautiful interior and lifestyle goods. I hope it goes a long way to bring back life to the high street.  After months of uncertainty, people can come out and enjoy local shopping experiences.

“I have always been self-employed. Twenty-nine years ago, whilst living in Aberdeen, I returned to college to get a diploma in interior design. I returned to the Highlands and started a soft furnishing business in Grantown on Spey, working from my kitchen table, later opening a small workshop and showroom in Aviemore. This was highly successful! I then spent a couple of years in South Africa and Cairo returning to set up a business whilst the country was experiencing a recession, an interesting business that involved vintage cars!

Isobel’s business offered chauffeur-driven scenic tours with visits to whisky distilleries around Speyside and Moray being popular. She combined this with her B&B, which she says was an enjoyable and rewarding business.

And it seems Isobel may be starting yet another business as the fears of recession grip the country once again. However she sees that as an opportunity to build on the town’s community values.

Sense of Community

Forres Loves Local

“Covid-19 has made us all realise the importance of regenerating our local High Street. Shop local is the way forward, cutting down on the need to travel to larger towns and bring back the sense of community that we all experienced during lockdown. Let’s keep that alive,” she said, adding that work still needs to be done to foster it.

“We need our local council representatives to support the opportunity to give back to the community. With so much local artistic talent, moving forward we need to see empty shop units used by local councils to support ‘Shop Local ‘ opportunities which will revive our  High Streets and reduce unemployment.”

The shop opened at the end of August and Isobel said her first few days have been amazing.

“Who says ‘shop local’ isn’t the way forward.  I hope my little shop will give others encouragement to take that leap! It was fantastic to have such support from other local traders who popped in with lovely flowers and good wishes. Thank you, everyone, for your support!”

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