‘Difficult task’ for new shop to find affordable premises

Gilliam Morgan and Lesley Johnson with Common-Riding Committee chairman Stuart Marshall at the opening of the new Rum and Milk shop
Gilliam Morgan and Lesley Johnson with Common-Riding Committee chairman Stuart Marshall at the opening of the new Rum and Milk shop
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THE owners of empty shops in Borders towns should be more flexible in the lease conditions they demand from potential tenants.

That is the view of Gillian Morgan who, with her business partner Lesley Johnson, officially launched a multi-faceted retail business, Rum and Milk, in North Bridge Street, on Saturday.

After the town’s Drums and Fifes had performed in the sunshine and free samples of the eponymous tipple – synonymous with the Common-Riding – were enjoyed at the opening ceremony, mum-of-four Gillian reflected on the journey from “good business idea” to “reality”.

“Finding premises which were affordable proved the most difficult task,” she admitted.

“We were shocked at some of the rents being sought by shop landlords and that most of them insisted on a minimum 12-month lease which just seems unrealistic in the current economic climate and when high streets in many of the region’s towns, including Hawick, are scarred with empty shops.”

By happy chance, the site the pair eventually chose – the well-known local landmark known as the Coffin End – was being advertised for let by its owner John Miller from Selkirk. They signed a three-month lease, with a one-month rolling clause thereafter and their idea edged closer towards reality, despite being knocked back from Scottish Borders Council for a start-up grant as it was claimed their proposal wasn’t sustainable.

Gillian, who has run many charity events for her church, and Lesley, a programme leader in the business and employability faculty at Borders College, have been lifelong friends.

“We have created a one-stop shop for all that is best in what Hawick produces – ideal for gifts for local shoppers and souvenirs for visitors,” said Gillian.