By Eilidh Whiteford
Walk into Artizan on Church Street and you're transported out of Stornoway to step into continental Europe as the town's latest cafe/bar offers something with a special little 'je ne sais quoi'.
Artizan's unique design and atmosphere have been specially conceived by owners Alison and John Cunningham.
More than two years have gone into the development and planning of the new cafe/bar, situated in the former Christina's Gems shop, which also presents a large range of jewellery, gifts and local artworks.
Having opened their 5 Star Gold award-winning guest house in 2005, the couple understand what it means to be at the top-end of the hospitality industry; and Alison's creative skill and flair for design are clearly visible in their latest endeavour.
Artizan delivers the high-quality stamp closely associated with Braighe House guest house, as John said: “We know that retaining quality is absolutely essential to the requirements of the more discerning customer today; that's why the time and detail that went into the design was so important.”
Indeed, John and Alison have spent the last couple of years visiting and photographing a plethora of cafe bars, generating small, unique design ideas that make big impacts.
The sturdy tables in the comfy, open cafe/bar area downstairs have each been individually made from reclaimed timber sourced from outlets across Scotland, and the bar was created locally by Specialist Welding Services, made specifically to Artizan's design.
Move upstairs to the retail portion of Artizan, and the open, airy layout is again down to Alison, with the wonderful inclusion of up-cycled furniture displays made by Artizan manager, and artist, Joan Macleod.
And as well as managing the cafe/bar, Artizan's resident artist Joan has also selected a wealth of island-based artworks, from Simon Rivett, Moira Maclean, Anthony Barber and Margaret Ferguson amongst others, which add to the cafe's creative surroundings.
Yet it is not simply the look of Artizan which boasts the best of high-end luxury – the wares, from coffees, wines and Tapas delights to the jewellery, gift and art range, all offer customers a slice of something special.
Good quality coffees and loose-leaf teas ensure a welcome cuppa, whilst the exquisite wine range on offer – exclusive to Artizan – has been specially selected by Seamus MacInnes of Glasgow's popular Café Gandolfi.
Alongside local home-baking, on the menu at present is a selection of delicious Tapas treats; but the Artizan team are also already looking to expand the lunchtime menu in particular. “We're listening to customer feedback and are looking at expanding the menu,” said manager Joan. “That's what Artizan is about – listening to what people want and aiming to provide it, all with our own wee touches.”
Offering something different, and exclusive, to Stornoway customers is an Artizan top priority, and is visible also in the selection of jewellery and gifts, including ranges from Hot Diamonds, Purity 925 and Exquisite jewellery, as well as Hebridean Soap Company and Ishga skin care produce amongst others.
To ensure an appealing selection of jewellery, Alison spent time working with suppliers of the former Christina's Gems, as well as sourcing and establishing new connections.
“The object is to bring something different to the local market but at the same time making sure not to impinge on Stornoway's existing retail; it's about offering something new,” said Alison.
“Christina's Gems have been very supportive of us taking this venture on, and we're really thankful to them,” she continued.
“And the support from everyone since we opened has been great. We're hoping that continues as we listen and respond to our customers' needs to develop on into 2016.”
Proving popular with customers, Stornoway's new kid on the block is also doing its bit to increase footfall within Church Street, as Joan added: “The butchers across the road commented the other day how he's seeing so many more people coming up and down the street, coming out of Artizan and popping into other shops nearby, so it's great to see it opening up this end of town.

“It's going to be an exciting few months ahead as we try out new things, and we can't wait to hear what our customers think as we bring this new concept to Stornoway.”

Published in EVENTS, January 2016