Inverurie is a town best known for the abundance of independent businesses that call its streets home.
From local butchers to high-quality restaurants, cafes, gift shops and hair and beauty salons, it’s the bar scene that has primarily stayed the same.
Independent family business Edward’s Bar and Eatery has been offering a taste of the north-east and local area to customers since it opened its doors in 1989.
Bar manager Mel Herron has been working for the business for the past 15 years.
She says a recent refurbishment to the downstairs bar and dining space has encouraged a whole new clientele through the doors.
She said: “We underwent a big renovation downstairs in the bar in October last year and reopened in November. The whole works took a month and it looks fantastic.
“The atmosphere is a little different now, it’s probably more of a bar and diner now instead of a cafe bar. It’s a bit more modern and sophisticated and I think a lot of people are really enjoying the new look of the bar.
“We’ve got the same customers and locals coming to enjoy the space, but now we’ve managed to increase new business off the back of the renovation because it’s got a slightly different and newer feel to it.”
Having worked at the bar for more than a decade now, Mel says it’s diversifying the food and drink offering and keeping the locals happy that’s led to it becoming such a popular watering hole.
“I’ve worked here for 15 years but I actually started as a cleaner and then worked as a waitress so I’ve done everything here,” said Mel.
“The bar manager at the time went off work for a bit so I did all the orders for him. We then got a new bar manager who was here for a couple of years and when he left, Gary Cox, the owner, asked if I wanted to do it and I jumped at the chance. I’ve worked on the bar, handled ordering and had basically already done the role so I was very excited about the opportunity.
“I’ve been the bar manager for about a year and a half now and I absolutely love my job. I guess it’s really the customers and my boss who have really kept me here so long.
“Everyone is really interested in what we do and everyone is so nice. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Gin is the second most popular spirit in the bar, just behind vodka.
Mel said: “Gin has been mental for us. It doesn’t matter what shape or form, anything that’s gin or a gin liqueur is so popular.
“The flavoured gins are doing amazing too. Vodka is still our most popular spirit, but gin is definitely right behind it.
“We’re selling double the amount we were this time last year so that speaks margins itself.
“At one point, I think we did have about 40 gins but we’ve scaled it down and just focused on the ones we think work well like Whitley Neill, Tanqueray, Hendricks and things like that. We’ve got House of Botanicals Maple Gin and their Old Tom Gin too. There are so many gins out there so we’ve had to be selective and pick the ones that work best for us.
“Our Whitley Neill flavoured gins and the Edinburgh Gin liqueurs are exceptionally popular too – everyone loves the different flavours.”
Mel preaches the importance of supporting local spirit businesses and having them available behind the bar, especially having lived in Inverurie – the home of so many family-owned businesses – for so long.
“We’re an independent bar and there are actually quite a few others independently owned in Inverurie. We all try and work together and with BrewDog opening across the road soon we’re hoping that will bring even more people into the town. New people might visit because of the bar, so the other businesses that are actually here get to enjoy them too. There are a lot of nice places here.
“We stock gins like House of Elrick and the House of Botanicals and we’ve got lots of local whiskies like Black Bull too. It’s important to support these businesses and use them as much as we can.”
Offering cocktails too, the bar staff can make up any drink you like – providing they have the ingredients, of course.
She said: “We usually just get people to tell us what they want and if we’ve got all the ingredients to make it then we’ll make the cocktail for them.
“There’s not so much focus on having a cocktail list – it’s more about us accommodating to what people want and creating drinks they’ll really love instead of just having a set menu.”
And with cocktails on tap, what’s not to love?
“We’ve got the Pornstar Martini on draft and also Mojito too which is really fun and people love that,” said Mel.
“We’ve probably got the ingredients for most cocktails and the most popular one we sell has to be the Espresso Martini.”
The team of 15 staff not only work downstairs, but they also work upstairs in the nightclub which, by day, doubles as a sports bar.
She said: “The upstairs area is really geared towards a sports bar feel during the day and then on Friday and Saturday night turns into a nightclub. We open up the space on Sundays for big sporting events too. There’s a pool table, big TVs and that sort of thing.
“While the rugby has been on it’s been absolutely fantastic – there’s such a brilliant atmosphere in the whole space. It’s also got a lovely view of the town so over Christmas a lot of people are quite happy just to sit at the windows and enjoy the festive events taking place.
“The nightclub is really popular and the capacity is around 180 people. We rearrange the room and put everything away.
“We’re looking to refurbish the upstairs area this year so we’ll make the whole space a lot more practical – especially with the pool table.
“We’ll have more little booths and things like that. It can be fairly busy and is open until 3am over the weekend.”
But it’s upping their food and drinks offering and the new and improved look of Edwards that Mel thinks has been a huge driver for the bar.
“Food-wise, we’ve gone from serving soup and sandwiches to serving really tasty Scottish pub meals that are super popular,” said Mel.
“We’ve now got things like fish and chips, steak pie, scampi, macaroni cheese and things like that.
“We keep it fresh by changing it every six to seven weeks and the customers really like that.
“Everyone is just loving the bar’s new look and it’s so nice to hear and see so many new faces.”