Nov 18 2011 by Jennifer Buchanan, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
IN A time when all we seem to hear about is doom and gloom in the retail sector, a corner of Ayr town centre is bucking the trend.
For New Bridge Street at the bottom of the Sandgate has seen an influx in specialist independent shops opening their doors.
And the store owners have all become a community amongst themselves.
Gabriel Gorman, who owns the Ayrshire Model Centre, said: “There’s not a lot of foot traffic but the fact that 95 per cent of the buses that come into town drive past our shops is really good for us.
“It also helps that the rent is so much cheaper than on the Sandgate.
“The difference 100 yards make is unbelievable, it’s about £10,000 cheaper to rent a shop on New Bridge Street than on the Sandgate.
“It’s just a shame that our end of the street doesn’t seem to be getting any of the regeneration fund spent on us.”
Gabriel used to be a kitchen-fitter until the recession saw the company fall apart.
So nine months ago, the Coylton man opened the Ayrshire Model Centre, and he’s never looked back.
He said: “I used to spend most of my day driving up and down the M25 with my mobile phone attached to my ear shouting at people.
“This is like my semi-retirement.”
But Gabriel has been kept busy with avid model fans travelling to the shop from miles around.
He said: “Apparently I’m the only dedicated model shop in the west of Scotland so it’s been going pretty well so far.”
And it’s not just Gabriel who has managed to turn his hobby into his success.
Right next door 19-year-old Curtis Finnigan has opened The Lost World which specialises in everything to do with snakes, spiders and reptiles.
And despite his young age, Curtis has already built up a reputation for himself.
He said: “I’ve always had snakes and lizards at home and I used to work at a pet shop in Irvine when I was school, I was their reptile specialist.
“It’s something I’ve always thought about, having my own store, so I just decided to try it out.
“I opened about five weeks ago and it’s been going pretty good. I’ve had people come in all the way from Greenock.”
Across the road, Sew Materialistic, is the veteran of the patch.
The shop has been operating for 25 years, and Marie Welsh has owned it for seven of those.
She said: “We’re definitely different to the other fabric shops in the town. We’re starting to hold sewing classes which have really taken off, children as young as eight come for lessons every week and they’re really keen.”
And New Bridge Street is set to see a tattoo studio and a fitness supplement shop open within the next month.
Gabriel added: “Most people think the bottom of the town is all empty shops, and there definitely are some.
“But I think it’s great that we’re all managing to make it work here. We’re helping make the area look better.”