Published: 14/03/2013 23:30 - Updated: 14/03/2013 17:49

Shutdown of Beggs another blow for Brora

Graham Begg
Graham Begg

BRORA has been dealt another economic blow with the imminent closure of long established electrical goods outlet Graham Begg Ltd.

The shop, located in the centre of the village, is to shut down at the end of April with the loss of two jobs.

It is the latest in a run of business closures which last year resulted in Brora being described as in danger of turning into a "ghost town".

The store was one of a chain of four run by well known North businessman Graham Begg, who is semi-retiring after reaching the age of 65.

He has already closed down his two outlets in Caithness – the Thurso shop shut at Christmas and the Wick shop two weeks ago.

Five jobs have been lost in total from the three outlets.

A newly refurbished shop, the Panasonic Store, leased and run by Mr Begg in Inverness, is to remain open for business.

He is now offering the Wick and Brora shops, which he owns, for sale or lease. Two people are understood to be interested in the Brora premises, but not as an electrical goods store.

The winding down of the Begg chain marks the end of an era stretching back nearly half a century.

A television engineer to trade, Mr Begg has been in business for 43 years during which time he has become an institution in the North.

He served his time with the former Alexander Sutherland and Son, alongside another young apprentice, Alex Grant, who would later go on to set up international refrigeration firm Norfrost.

After qualifying, Mr Begg worked for a six-month spell as a television engineer with Mr Grant before starting his own business.

"Customers whose television or other electrical appliances were beyond repair, began asking me if I could provide them with new products and that’s how I started," he recalls.

He opened his first shop in Wick in 1969 followed by the Brora shop, then the Thurso outlet and eventually the Inverness store.

In the early days, Mr Begg also worked for Marconi Marine repairing radar systems on fishing vessels.

He has been involved in furniture retailing and at one point had a 25,000 square foot furniture warehouse in Thurso. He also had two Toymaster shops which closed down around three years ago.

"At my peak I had in excess of 50 employees," he says.

His decision to retire has been driven by his age.

"I could have continued but I have reached retirement age and I have seen so many people work hard for years but then sadly miss out on retirement," he says.

"There is nobody coming behind me. My daughter is definitely not interested in continuing the business and my son lives in Canada.

"I have got lots of things to be getting on with. I have a bit of a farm round my house and I plan to erect a polytunnel."

However, Mr Begg is not giving up completely. As well as the Inverness store, he is retaining stock in a storage unit at Wick Airport Industrial Estate.

"It takes a lot to switch off!" he admits. "I’ve lots of stock in my unit and if anybody wants an electrical appliance, they can still phone me and I might be able to provide what they’re looking for at a good price because I won’t have the overheads."

Fears that Brora was turning into a "ghost town" label were raised last year after the long established firm of William Sutherland Furnishers closed down and Calluna Country in Station Square was put up for sale.

Since then restaurant and take-away Indian Ocean has also closed but is shortly to reopen as a bistro under new management.

Brora Community Council chairwoman Kathleen Cunningham said the closure of Beggs was another great loss for the village.

"It’s just devastating for the community to watch businesses go because once you’ve lost them, it’s difficult to get them back again," she said.

"It’s a struggle for any business at the moment in this economic climate."

But Mrs Cunningham said the village was slowly being revitalised with plans to re-open Calluna and the new bistro.

She also pointed out that another local business, Pandora’s Emporium, had expanded into corner premises near to the Co-op. "There is revitalisation going on and we do have shops opening up again. We should be optimistic because there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

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