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Sharp-eyed shoppers in Oban will have spotted a number of businesses in the town looking spick and span this spring.
The bright new welcome after months of gloomy lockdown is all thanks to the behind-the-scenes efforts of BID4Oban.
A pot of money – some entirely funded by BID4Oban and then topped up with a £22,000 grant from Argyll and Bute Council – has made the improvements possible.
The money has helped local businesses access funding to partially cover the cost of a spruce-up or make adjustments to the new retail restrictions brought about by Covid.
Beneficiaries include Alba’s Kitchen Garden in Albany Street; the Oban Chocolate Company on the Corran Esplanade; The Lorne Bar and Restaurant on Stevenson Street; Amore Hairdressing on George Street, and the newly-opened Go Naked Veg Ltd at the corner of Stevenson Street and Combie Street.
One of the most eye-catching beneficiaries is Roxy’s Cafe and Tea House.
The funding contributed to the creation of a new riverside dining area on Airds Crescent.
Complete with decking, flowers and sunbrellas, it is a place where people can meet, eat and grab a coffee in the outdoors.
Owner Donna MacCulloch, who runs the business with husband Archie, went as far as calling the investment a ‘lifesaver’ after Covid slashed the cafe’s indoor capacity.
Donna said: ‘It’s been a huge help and a benefit to us to have BID4Oban contribute funding and has been lifesaving for the cafe to do this.
‘We wouldn’t have been able to do this on our own and we would have lost half our business. We employ 17 staff, so I can’t thank BID4Oban enough for the work they’ve done.’
Donna said since travel restrictions had been eased, trade had been ‘steady’ and she expected it to get busier as the good weather returns.
Mr Spence added that the funds had helped brighten up the town and had made a big difference.
Under the improvements scheme, BID4Oban has been helping pay up to 75 per cent of the cost of the works to a maximum payment of £1,500 per business.
Since November, 20 businesses have benefitted and a further 18 are set to receive part-funding which is paid on completion of the works.
More businesses have expressed interest and BID4Oban now hopes to secure extra funding to top-up the remaining £12,000 in the pot to help spread the sparkle further.
Mr Spence said: ‘We are looking to increase it because it has been so popular. At this moment, businesses are looking to take any help at all as they have been shut for a protracted period, but this has helped to kickstart things and it has captured the imagination.’