An Aberdeen oil and gas worker is opening a new pet shop in nearby Westhill.
Stephen Bruce has been running a mobile shop, Pawz Pet Supplies, for the past two years.
The 49-year-old has personally invested nearly £30,000 in the business and is now preparing to open new premises in Westhill Shopping Centre in the coming weeks.
Mr Bruce, who is also a part-time rope inspection equipment engineer, has signed a five-year lease and is relishing the challenge.
He said: “There has been a lot of doom and gloom around businesses, but a number of reasons spring to mind as to why open a shop.
“When you’re listening to your customers excitement, the encouragement and support makes it so much easier to make the decision.
“Strategically, I thought Westhill was the best option. It needs a lot of work but everyone has been super positive and supportive.
“It’s been over 19 years since there was a pet shop in Westhill and they’ve all been desperate for one.”
The shop will also have a dog grooming salon.
Loyal customer base
Mr Bruce works nights and weekends visiting communities across the north-east with his mobile trailer business.
And he has no plans to stop that anytime soon.
He said: “It’s been a fantastic two years so far, bearing in mind I started in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
“The help from all the sites I trade from, Belhelvie Church, Balmedie Leisure Centre, Trellis Coffee Shop, Dyce Market and of-course Westhill Shopping Centre has been great.
“If it wasn’t for all the amazing customers and their pets I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today – this is the main reason I need to keep the mobile supply going.
“I feel a sense of duty to all my loyal customers to continue what in effect they started.”
Mr Bruce has been helped along the way by his wife, Lindsay, who also deals with the social media for Pawz Pet Supplies.
The couple have two Lhasa apso dogs, Charlie and Lottie.
“There’s no point in just dipping my toe in the water,” Mr Bruce said, adding: “Given the investment I’ve made so far, I thought why not do a decent lease?
“By year three I’d like to see another store opening after the reaction I’ve seen so far.”
The cost-of-doing business crisis is cause for concern but Mr Bruce believes the benefits of shop ownership outweigh the risks.
He said: “I’ve got customers who are in the energy industry looking for the best deals for me.
“I think we need to try it and monitor as we go along.
“I can’t see I’m going to use a significant amount of electric.
“It will only be lighting and the grooming salon that’ll use energy. I’m quite happy to take the risk.
“There is a mountain to climb, along with a significant investment, but it will all be worth it once I open the doors and finally start another chapter in the Pawz – dare I say it – empire.”