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Nicky Marr: Is Krispy Kreme the right answer for high street?

By Nicky Marr

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A new Krispy Kreme counter is understood to be opening in Inverness.
A new Krispy Kreme counter is understood to be opening in Inverness.

Autumn. I love this time of year, with chill in the air, and the leaves turning to every colour from ochre and burnt orange, to deep amber and scarlet. The icing on the cake is a hint of woodsmoke in the air.

Autumn is my favourite season for cooking. Out comes the slow cooker, and the house is filled with the aromas of rich beef and red wine casseroles, or warming lentil dahl, infused with earthy spices.

Sausages are crying out to be roasted with apples, brambles, and a good dollop of mustard and maple syrup, or slow cooked with red wine and fennel. It’s the season of soups and crumbles, proper puddings with custard, and baking; scones, fruit loaves, and anything with ginger.

The larder of the Highlands is world class all year round, but at this time of the year it really shines, with local venison and root veg, cheeses, apples, and fish. There’s always room on my menu for a fish pie. And a doughnut.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ll have seen that the American doughnut conglomerate Krispy Kreme is soon to be opening on Inverness High Street.

You might also have seen the near-hysteria in the comments underneath the news stories – people excitedly tagging their friends and planning their orders, as if the doors were the gateway to Nirvana, or you couldn’t already buy them in Tesco.

It’s no secret that, in common with most towns and cities across the UK, Inverness High Street is in dire need of a boost. So I welcome any and every move that will encourage increased footfall in the heart of our Highland capital. But given the choice of any shop, restaurant or retail outlet, a US import selling sugary dough, whether glazed, iced, or covered in sprinkles, was never going to be at the top of my list.

Because if you’re looking for a doughnut in Inverness, the city centre already has some of the finest examples I have ever tasted, at Perk Coffee and Doughnuts, in Church Street.

From a simple sugar-coated cloud of yeasted perfection, to a doughnut filled with apple and cinnamon spiced compote, through to a tooth-achingly sweet malted and white-chocolate concoction topped with Maltesers, Perk’s menu is seasonal, imaginative, and always fresh.

Perk’s coffee matches the best in town, and at night the venue effortlessly transforms itself into an espresso martini bar. What’s not to love?

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But the best bit? Perk is owned and run by locals, who are part of our local community. They collaborate with other local businesses too, with their whisky pairings with The Malt Room becoming the stuff of local legend.

But what do we use our town centres for, these days?

For me it’s access to a decent butcher and fish shop, and the myriad of brilliant, independent cafés, restaurants, and street-food stalls that we have across the Highlands and Moray. I use my local High Street to eat out, conduct business meetings, socialise, and get my hair cut.

I make it a policy to spend money in local independents wherever I am; Olive in Thurso was a revelation the last time I was in Caithness, serving some of the best apple cake I’ve ever tasted.

I’d love to say there’s room for everyone on the high street – certainly there are enough empty outlets. And Krispy Kreme will be creating jobs for local people, even if the profits are shipped abroad. But if the apparent excitement surrounding this new branch is anything to go by, I fear Perk may be under threat.

It’s a tough balancing act. I’d rather see shop units filled than lying empty. But let’s really hope this new venture doesn’t cause another business to close its doors. If we remember the importance of shopping local, there should be room for both.

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