Fenton Barns Farm Shop and Café has risen from the ashes both metaphorically and literally. Closed since December as a result of a fire and rebuilding work hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, we speak to owners Roy Campbell and Mhairi Mackenzie-Robinson as they once again open this much-loved farm shop and café.
It’s hard to believe that more than ten months have passed since the farm shop and café at Fenton Barns was closed as a result of a fire on Christmas Eve 2019. Refurbishment work began in March this year, stopping for several weeks owing to COVID-19 restrictions, restarting again, in earnest, in July. The damage caused by the fire was extensive so the repairs have been comprehensive, but the building is now in fantastic shape and waiting to welcome back its many loyal customers.
The farm shop’s operators, husband-and-wife team Roy Campbell and Mhairi Mackenzie-Robinson, took over the business in September 2006. At that time they were coffee importers and also ran The Fruitmarket Gallery Café in Edinburgh, numerous pop-up cafés in the city (including the café in the bookshop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square), Saint Giles’ Cathedral Café, and the café at Lyon & Turnbull (auctioneers).
“Fenton Barns Farm Shop was an attractive proposition for us,” says Mhairi, “at a stage in our business when we wanted to expand into food retail on the back of running cafés.” Mhairi’s background includes working as Head of Marketing at the National Galleries of Scotland, where she was closely involved with buying for their shops. “Roy and I both have a passion for good food and design-led giftware, so when the business came up for sale in such a lovely part of the country, it seemed like a logical fit.”
Over the first couple of years, Roy and Mhairi settled in to the venue, developing a café menu with food that was prepared on site, and seeking out suppliers, both local and from further afield – whose products were of the highest quality.
In 2008 they upgraded the building, installing a full high-spec commercial kitchen. They also put in specialised retail lighting and removed one of the internal walls to open up the space between the shop and the café. “It made real sense.” says Roy. “The experience of being in either the shop or the café instantly became much less self-conscious than before, with the whole room – the bustle of the café combined with the browsers in the shop – contributing to a much livelier atmosphere overall.”
Dreadful as the fire was, it meant the building could be completely renewed. There is new flooring, new panelling and paintwork, new doors and windows, new lighting, a new entrance and new furniture. “The whole place has been re-wired and re-fitted, and feels fresh and new,” continues Roy, “but we’ll still try and keep a sense of the old farm shop and café. We’ll still be supporting the same faithful producers and maintaining our original standards. From that point-of-view, it should still feel quite familiar to everyone. Just a newer version.”
Mhairi adds; “We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes over the years and passed through a whole range of food fashions. Our guiding principle is to source and prepare delicious food. Whether it’s vegetarian, carnivorous, vegan, gluten-free, local or from elsewhere, fancy or plain – it just has to taste good.”