There’s no doubting that Edinburgh is big on coffee, specifically, good coffee. Machina Coffee are at the heart of this scene; they’re active wholesalers, coffee roasters, equipment suppliers and the owners of a popular independent shop on Broughton Street. The story of Machina is one of big ideas, quality produce and putting people first – synonymous with what makes local businesses so special.
In this #hiddentraxchat, we speak to Machina Co-Founder Steve Glencross about how he and Michael started the business, what stands out about Edinburgh, and what’s to come in the world of speciality coffee.
“I definitely think 2021 could be the year of collaboration maybe…specifically, for Edinburgh’s indy scene. There’s a lot of strong businesses here that have great brands, and great products, and have good followings. There is no reason why the majority of these businesses should not only survive, but flourish.”
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Over the last two decades, I.J. Mellis Cheesemongers has expanded across Edinburgh and Glasgow, supplying locals and restaurants alike. This independent business specialises in keeping their customers stocked with the best in artisan and farmhouse cheeses.
In this #hiddentraxchat we spoke to founder Iain Mellis about founding the company and how it’s grown. We hear about his love of local communities, shopping local and the highs and lows of running a family business. Iain shares his insight on recent turbulences and what the future holds for independent businesses.
“The beauty of Edinburgh and Glasgow in the fact there are communities within the cities… you’ve got the culture of a big city, and even more small shops than a village or small town.”
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It takes some special ingredients to run a business since 1934… luckily Valvona & Crolla is full of them. Family-run since it opened, this Edinburgh institution has been keeping Italian food, wine and culture lovers smiling for over 80 years.
We chatted with Francesca, the managing director, about her family history and the diversity that makes Leith special. Francesca shares a unique perspective on what it means to foster multiple generations of connections within the local community, and how they’ve rallied together through the recent crisis.
This #hiddentraxchat uncovers a special side of a local treasure, providing a first-hand insight into running a local business…
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Running a business is never easy. Running an independent business during a global pandemic is – at times – nearly impossible. Lockdown turbulence has meant highs and lows for business owners and their employees; quick, creative change has become necessary. The need to support independent businesses, shop local, and invest cash in our communities is more important than ever before. Residents have been eager to support their locals during this tough time. But reaching these eager customers isn’t always easy…
Cue Edinburgh Lockdown Economy. An online directory developed by the team at Vocal, that sprung up – seemingly overnight – to support over 800 Edinburgh businesses. Their site allows businesses to share new offers and services with locals, supporting the many pivots, changes and rethinks that have been demanded of the independent.
There’s been an inspiring wave of support for local businesses across Edinburgh, and as we begin our own new chapter, uncovering their stories, we thought where better to begin than Edinburgh Lockdown Economy. We caught up with Tom Harries, co-founder, to hear about the changes he’s seen in local businesses and what Edinburgh Lockdown Economy is doing to help; along with picking up some tips for a few of his favourite new finds.
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“Universities can make or break us. Personally, my years at university made me, and they also solidified my anti-establishment leanings. I loved the learning, the friends and the incredible experiences I had growing up in this most magical city.”
Briana Pegado made history as the first black woman to be elected as president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA). She also set up the Edinburgh Student’s Arts Festival (ESAF), which led to her being named as one of Scotland’s 30 women under 30 and one of Scotland’s top ten innovators.
On Briana’s ‘Universityland’ Trax, she retraces her steps through Edinburgh University’s central campus, covering everything from controversial architecture, student protests and the famous murderers Burke and Hare. This time, we’ve reached out to her to ask her for some advice. If you’re a fresher, a foodie, or thinking of running for EUSA presidency, then stay tuned…
What’s your best advice for fresher’s week?
“Make sure to smile and chat to people even when you are uncertain. A lot of people are in the same boat as you and are feeling just as nervous. A smile and a hello is a great way to start a conversation. “
“Pace yourself. You won’t miss out if you don’t go to everything and you don’t want fresher’s flu, so make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of naps in if you’re planning to stay out all night.”
Your favourite go-to spots to eat near uni?
“I am a huge fan of Che on Forest Road. They serve the best falafel in the city. They put lemon zest in their falafel and swear there is nowhere else like it. I am a big fan of Nile Valley cafê as well. They make the best wraps. An Africa Wrap with Fuul (these delicious stewed beans) and feta cannot go amiss!”
“Union of Genius is one of the best inventions since sliced bread. A soup café, come on! How has no one thought of that before? The Lebanese Lentil and Lemon Soup is one of my favourites. I am also a huge fan of Saboteur for their Vit Curry with Duck. It has whole lychee fruits in it and it is delicious!”
“There are too many to count but there are my tops suggestions. For some authentic Mexican Food, El Cartel is also worth checking out and Checkpoint for their thrice cooked chips.”
What advice would you give to someone thinking of running for EUSA presidency?
“Pull together a manifesto that has an impact and is easy to communicate. You want to help with transport links to King’s Building, exam timetables or more access to counselling services – then chose those are your main focus.”
“Assemble a team of people that believe in you to help you out. This will help with lecture shout-outs (they are key and a great way to reach big audiences of people at once), door knocking, and also use social in ways that will grab people’s attention.”
“The most important thing is to be yourself, listen to the people you want to support to come up with ideas to support them, and have fun. It’s going to be a long slog of sleepless nights, late-night discussions and chatting to former Sabbatical Officers/Staff at EUSA. Use every opportunity you can as an opportunity to listen and gather information to make sure you do something that truly benefits the Edinburgh University community.”
To any new or returning students, we hope this advice helps!
“Welcome to Universityland: home to an institution that has been influencing the world since 1583. This is the University of Edinburgh.”
Join the former president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA) Briana Pegado on a walk around the University of Edinburgh’s central campus, as she shows you some of the university’s most important buildings. This article is adapted from our ‘University land’ Trax, created by Briana. You can check it out on Spotify, or on our free app!
1. Bristo Square
“Bristo Square was always a thoroughfare through to everything good: a little portal out of Universityland into the actual city.”
Home to the famous McEwan Hall, EUSA’s Teviot Row House and Potterrow, Bristo Square is the gateway in and out of the rest of the campus. It is also known as the adopted home of Edinburgh’s skateboarding community and has become the inspiration and birthplace of local businesses such as clothing brand Pieute and the Focus skateboard shop.
As Briana remembers, “when the square was set to be refurbished in 2015 and skateboarders were asked to make themselves sparse, a short-lived protest movement erupted around the square to save its history. Posters, signs and caps reading “Make Bristo Skate Again” were particularly popular. The square has since re-opened, and the new design has not warded skateboarders away. They are just cleverer about what props they bring to make the space board-able.”
2. McEwan Hall
“The Hall’s alcoholic origins are rarely questioned today, but given it is the main graduation hall for Edinburgh university – its merry beginnings are highly appropriate for its modern use.”
McEwan Hall was presented to the university by famous politician and brewer William McEwan in 1897, costing the equivalent of £14.8 million to build in today’s money!
The building is known for the beautiful frescoes painted in the Italian Renaissance style by William Mainwaring Palin, to be gazed upon by students taking their final exams and on their graduation day (see below).
3. Teviot Row House
Built in 1899 in the 16th Century Scots’ Palatial style, Teviot Row House is the oldest purpose-built students’ union in the UK. During term time, it is a lively hub of student activity, as there are a multitude of bars and restaurants open for students to enjoy, as well as a wide range of events, talks and socials to attend!
Teviot is also home to Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA). As Briana explains, “beyond putting on club nights, running important campaigns for students’ welfare, supporting student-run clubs and societies, running an advice place for students’ support, and hosting student council – the students’ association maintains an important role as a union representing students’ interests to the university, local government, city, Scottish and UK governments.”
“Potterrow is another students’ association venue, and it is also the new well-being centre, the Chaplaincy and the school of Philosophy.”
By day, the domed glass ceiling and cosy interior make Potterrow feel like a large greenhouse, and it’s a great place to steal away to have some lunch or do a bit of studying between lectures. By night, Potterrow is home to the infamous BIG CHEESE! Love it or hate it (and many do both) the Big Cheese is a student night known for its cheesy music, and it is the most well-attended student night in the city.
5. George Square & George Square Gardens
Originally built as a residential area for Edinburgh’s upper class, George Square today is the beating heart of Edinburgh’s central campus. Once the birthplace or residence of many noble characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the beautiful Georgian homes lining the square are now used as offices for University departments, or to host seminars or classes for students.
Briana’s favourite part? “The beautiful oasis in the middle of the square – George Square Gardens. Hidden inside is a tiny labyrinth which is a pattern woven into little tiles of concrete, hidden away by bushes.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around Edinburgh University’s central campus with Edinburgh alumni and former EUSA president Briana Pegado.
If you’re looking for more university-related content, then check out Brianna’s full ‘Universityland’ Trax, available Spotify, and on our free app!
Timeless and era-defining with a dash of eccentricity – enhance your shopping experience beyond the high street with our local’s guide to the best vintage shops in town.
Following her desire to live a less wasteful lifestyle, Edinburgh local and vintage fashion enthusiast Annika made the resolution to shop ONLY second hand. Since then, she’s had a blast scoping out Edinburgh’s best vintage boutiques and second-hand shops.
This article is adapted from Annika’s ‘Vintage Shopping & Sustainable Fashion’ audio walking tour, available on Spotify and on our free app!
“So classy. Isn’t that the point of vintage, that it is timeless?”
Carnival Vintage takes era-defining fashion to it’s the most literal definition, as all the garments in-store are organised by time period, with clothes for both men and women dating back to the Victorian Era. Fear not! The clothes don’t look or feel old, as the quality and care put into preserving these clothes are to the highest standard, and with a particular speciality in evening gowns, you can easily relive the glitz and the glam from your favourite time period (or at least dress like it)!
“Herman Brown has a history of travelling far and wide to collect the best, most uniqueone-off pieces. Where they go however, is a secret.”
Herman Brown is a treasure trove of cherry-picked, unique and one-off pieces from all around the world, including an impressive jewellery collection personally selected by the owner. There’s a real sense of quality over quantity, as the shop floors are not overcrowded and everything on display looks carefully selected. As one of Annika’s favourite vintage shops, her tip is to look out for their great selection of knitwear and jumpers!
Tightly packed with trinkets, ornaments, books and so much more, Antiques Curious Cabaret is any magpie’s dream. Both quirky and enchanting, this is an ideal spot to really take your time and have a good wee gander. Annika’s recommends checking out their vintage jewellery collection. Top tip: If you let the shop assistant know your budget, they will direct you to pieces that fit your requirements.
“The designers selected for instore normally use brightly coloured fabrics, and so combined with the stylish vintage interiors, it is a really welcoming environment to walk into.”
Unconventional and innovative, Godiva is an independent boutique and vintage shop that believes in celebrating fashion without being enslaved by it. With a strong desire to break the monotony of fast fashion, their front room showcases independent brands and local designers and their backroom is stocked with handpicked, quality vintage clothes. While ethically made garments can sometimes cost more, make sure you keep an eye out for their bargain bin!
“I don’t think anything could have mentally prepared you for this shop. It’s a bit much. In the best of ways.”
Established in 1840, W. Armstrong & Son is one of the most iconic and well-loved vintage shops in Edinburgh, with three branches scattered throughout the city. Their Grassmarket shop (pictured) specialises in formal wear, tweed, knitwear, 80’s and wigs and boas, and everything in-store is handpicked with love. You can expect to find one of a kind pieces and era-defining garments both men and women! Brimming with eccentric decor, the interior can best be described as a quirky wardrobe time machine. So even if you’re not looking to buy, Armstrong’s is well worth a visit!
“Can you think of anything more surreal than entering a room where everyone is laughing, and wearing a hat? That is the Fabhatrix experience.”
From its first debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Markets in the 80’s to opening up shop in Grassmarket in 2002, Fabhatrix has always stood out because of its outstanding craftsmanship and the ethical sourcing of its materials, and hats. Every hat is made in-store, in a workshop downstairs!
That concludes Annika’s guide to Edinburgh’s best vintage shops! If you’d like to hear more about vintage shopping from a sustainable perspective, or her hilarious vintage shopping smell test, check out her Trax on Spotify or on our free app.