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Society in the Chocolate Factory: Let Humbug transport you to sweetie paradise

Humbug is the perfect Aberdeen sweet shop to cure your sweet cravings. Pictured is Fiona Gormley and brother/shopkeeper David MacGregor.
Humbug is the perfect Aberdeen sweet shop to cure your sweet cravings. Pictured is Fiona Gormley and brother/shopkeeper David MacGregor.

We’ve all had that moment stepping into a sweet shop and being blown away by delightful treats.

Vivid colours, jars of sugary heaven… what more could you want?

Thankfully, there’s a sweetie haven in Aberdeen that’ll have you wanting to wave your golden ticket like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.

Humbug sweet shop on Rosemount Place mixes classic vintage vibes with retro and luxury confectionery.

Fiona Gormley and brother/shopkeeper David MacGregor.

Owned by Fiona Gormley, the shop sells much more than just your standard pick and mix.

The sweet shop focuses on sourcing quality chocolates, fudges and tasty sweets from Scotland and beyond, making it ideal for both kids and adults.

However, Humbug also supports Fiona’s brother, David MacGregor, who has additional support needs as his source of full-time employment, making the social enterprise one of only a small number of special needs employers in the city.

We talked to Fiona to find out more about Humbug…


Tell us about yourself

I attended Aberdeen Grammar School in Rosemount. My whole working career has been in residential property work and I’m currently head of residential property in Aberdeen for Savills.

I’m one of these people that simply doesn’t have a lot of spare time to enjoy a lot of hobbies! I did used to go and visit Aberdeen FC on Saturdays a long time ago. I do still follow the football as much as I can and I was a season ticket holder in the past.

Lush lollipops.

Now, the shop has consumed much more of my life, but in a positive way. I guess that being in Humbug at the weekends, picking out different flavours of ice creams and favourite sweeties for customers is totally different to my Monday to Friday world and feels more like a hobby. It doesn’t feel like work when I’m there.

What made you want to start Humbug?

My brother David is profoundly deaf and had worked in retail for 13 years at Asda in Bridge of Dee.

Special edition sweets for the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Supermarkets are generally supportive of special needs workers, but usually only on part-time hours. My brother struggled to get additional hours even though he wanted to work more. So, opening Humbug was really to provide him with more regular, full-time work.

Did you take any inspiration from other special needs employers in Aberdeen like The Bread Maker when looking to start Humbug?

The Bread Maker was really a good plant-the-seed moment for me. Supporting there for a while myself, seeing the enjoyment of special needs people, the work they were carrying out and their surroundings very much accelerated the inspiration for me to have a similar setup with my brother David at Humbug.

Ice cream anyone?

I’m glad that David loves his work here, and having other special needs people involved in the business has definitely been at the forefront of my mind. It brings me great joy being in the shop on Saturdays helping out as well.

When did it all begin? How have things evolved since?

Humbug is 10-years-old this year. I think we’ve been lucky to be well supported within Rosemount. We felt it was the ideal area to set up our shop with its friendly, retail community.

Retro sweets are plentiful at Humbug.

We probably suffer a little from not gaining a huge amount awareness beyond Rosemount, but I think the pandemic, bizarrely, worked in our favour.

People were encouraged to walk about in spaces that they may not have visited for a while and realised that there was good shopping opportunities in Rosemount. I think the whole area in general has improved from increased footfall and awareness.

What’s the ethos of Humbug?

We like to offer a wide range of quality products, but keeping that retro feel is also an important factor here at the shop.

It was fairly easy to renovate the unit when we moved in, which was previously used as a bakery. But we put a lot of work into all the handmade shelves and cupboards with a focus on making the place look like an authentic sweet shop.

We now have our vintage till, scales and lots of older bits and pieces to create that Dickensian look of a sweetie shop.

Quality nougat cake brings a touch of class.

Do you have a wide-ranging clientele visiting Humbug?

Absolutely. There’s a wide range of ages that come into the shop.

Children often come in with their well-earned pocket money, which is really nice and uplifting to see. But teenagers, adults and retirees all also enjoy coming in.

There’s a wide spectrum of people and nobody is grumpy in our sweetie world!

What are some of the most popular products you sell in your sweet shop?

We sell literally tons of butter tablet. Organic chocolate bars are another of our best sellers. We also sell a lot of pick and mix style sweets, fudges and Irn-Bru is also a popular favourite.

Inside Humbug.

We often do specials in the shop like our milkshake Mondays and our waffle Wednesdays, which are especially popular during the summer months.

Ice cream is one of our seasonal offerings as well. We make our own ice cream cakes, but for traditional ice cream cones, we run these from March to October when the clocks change.

Where do you source your products?

We try to promote independent, Scottish wholesalers and brands with the products we sell here. There are a number of good quality Scottish products as well as some European lines.

A few examples of this include luxury Italian nougat slices, French truffles, quality Turkish delight, as well as handmade Isle of Arran chocolates. We try to source the best in class, recognised and original manufacturers of good confectionery and chocolate products.

Pick and mix is a top favourite with kids spending their pocket money.

But first and foremost, we’re definitely keeping a focus on Scottish manufacturers – because nobody has a sweet tooth as much as Scottish people!

Unfortunately, we don’t offer any homemade products at the minute, but that’s something we’d look towards in future.

Do you also offer a la carte style candy services for weddings and events?

Yes! Pre-pandemic, this was much more popular. It hasn’t been used a whole lot of late, but things like corporate events, weddings and engagement parties are all places we’ve organised this for in the past. We’re looking to get this up and running again this year.

Ice creams come in a wide range of flavours at Humbug.

What do you enjoy most about being the owner of Humbug?

Firstly, it’s the reward of knowing that David enjoys his employment. Secondly, our very loyal customers. They have supported us from the get go.

It’s amazing to hear customers’ stories as well – some people may come in as newlyweds, they may visit with their firstborn, they may come with their new grandchildren… it’s beautiful to have lovely connections with our loyal customers.

“Raising the profile of the business, creating more of an online presence and developing our social enterprise are the main things we’d want to achieve as a family run business,” Fiona Gormley.

What are some of your future plans for Humbug?

I think there’s still definitely room for growth with our business.

We’ve only started to build a profile on social media more recently and we currently don’t have an e-commerce facility on our website, which is something that we’re working on at the moment.

Raising the profile of the business, creating more of an online presence and developing our social enterprise are the main things we’d want to achieve as a family run business.


For more information, visit Humbug on Rosemount Place or online at humbugaberdeen.com

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