THE end of an era for Stonehaven promenade beckoned this week, as it was announced the town’s Amusement Arcade is to close.
Owners Doug and Dennis Stewart have sold the arcade, which has been a feature on the beachfront promenade for decades, to Neil Graham, a local businessman who owns the neighbouring Molly Gunning’s cafe.
Although the business will continue to run as an arcade for the immediate future Mr Graham has said that it is no longer a viable business enterprise and that he is looking at alternative ways to develop the site, in tandem with the local community.
Mr Graham has appealed to the community to get in touch with the Mearns Leader with suggestions about how the arcade should be developed and said one option on the table at the moment is opening a family-friendly diner which he believes would complement the other businesses currently doted along the promenade.
Mr Graham said: “Unfortunately it seems that the arcade is finished, it is just not a viable option any more. It has been in Stonehaven for a long, long time.
“We are open to suggestions as to what the community needs, what the town needs – it is important to me that I have got the community on side with this because at the end of the day it is the community which has helped my business so far.
“Molly’s has done very well over the years and it employs a lot of local staff, local Stonehaven people. It is probable that we will turn the arcade into some sort of diner but we are open to suggestions.”
He added: “It has got to be profitable, obvious, it has got to compliment what is there and it has got to attract more people into the town of Stonehaven, which again, will benefit the wider community.”
Mr Graham said he was not phased by the news that several town centre shops were to close but that he thought the local business community needed a shake-up and some fresh ideas.
“We’ve got too many charity shops, two opticians, two book makers – do we really need them?” he said. “We need something different in the town. Inverurie is beautifully done, it is a similar size to Stonehaven and they seem to have got the right shops in, the right high street names.
“People need an excuse to come into Stonehaven instead of going to Aberdeen. It is a difficult one. People seem to think that they open their doors and people will come in, but you have got to woo them in and a lot of it depends on the staff.
“The people on a lot of these community bodies have been there too long – they are stale and their ideas are stale. We need youthful people on these community panels – Stonehaven can sometimes seem a bit sleepy and we need fresh ideas, fresh people and some fresh shops. The town is desperate for that. It is a lovely place, it has a stunning harbour and open air pool – let’s build on that.”
David Fleming, chairman of the Stonehaven and District Community Council, said: “I’m very sad to see the arcade going because I love the shove ha’pennies but I can understand that if it is not viable then something has to change.
“I very much appreciate that the owner is involving the community in his plans and wish him all the best. I would encourage the community to respond.”