Earthy closure a loss to Edinburgh's food culture
- Donald Reid
- 31 January 2018
With news of pioneering food store Earthy closing down, Food & Drink Editor Donald Reid recognises its contribution to the local food scene and peers into a missing gap in food retail in urban Scotland.
It was around 10 years ago when the feel-good factor around Scottish food and drink really started to grip. The evidence was in farmers markets, farm shops and a growing number of small-scale producers emerging. Here and there you could discover an artisan baker or an organic box scheme; there was an awareness that, in the face of its clichéd unhealthiness, Scotland was actually capable of producing distinctive food of quality and integrity. If you knew where to find it, that was.
The founders of Earthy reckoned they knew where to find it. And they reckoned that if they could gather it together and showcase it, then the market – particularly in a relatively well-off, discerning city such as Edinburgh – would respond. When it opened in May 2008, Earthy felt like a deliverance. An alternative to supermarkets and their crushing culture of convenience and cheapness. A celebratory food hub you could trust for storeroom basics, dairy, treats, proper bread, real food. Local fruit and veg, not in paltry piles but displayed with the dolce vita of an Italian village market. 'If it doesn't taste great, it's not getting in the door,' founder Dirk Douglas confirmed back in the early days. Rare was it in Scotland that good food – good local food – could puff its chest out, and smile too.
Over the years it expanded: a shabby-chic café in the original converted garage in Newington that served sophisticated, contemporary, eat-me food. Another store in Portobello, a shop and café-restaurant on Canonmills bridge. It picked up awards, loyal followers, celebrity fans and made things work, surfing the waves of interest in local food but also paddling hard to reach them. Of course, like most businesses they grappled with failed ideals, fractured relationships, frustrations and challenges. It faced, as any food retailer that's not a supermarket faces, barbs about its pricing.