It takes some imagination to see how the tumbledown toy shop on Fraserburgh High Street could become one of the town’s star attractions.
But the owner of nearby pub Cheers, Dennis Forsyth, isn’t lacking any vision.
Dennis has been steadily expanding and improving the popular premises for about 15 years now.
And in 2019 he took on his biggest challenge yet when he bought the former Toymaster store nearby with an eye to making it a part of the venue.
His ambitions for the old toy shop are grand, with a trendy coffee house on the ground floor, and a micro gin distillery alongside room for cocktail classes upstairs.
The High Street shop would link with Cheers, which is located behind it on Broad Street, via a large outdoor area – including a big beer garden.
By creating a lane between the spots, he will be linking the Broch’s two busiest thoroughfares.
‘Biggest pub like this for miles around’
It’s a move local business groups are excited about at a time they are trying to bring more visitors to the town.
Local leaders are keen to undo the area’s drab image, and are arranging a series of drives this summer to attract more footfall.
And Dennis knows just how important Cheers is to the long-term regeneration plans.
“There’s a feeling that the key to the town centre development is Cheers”, he said.
“We are opening the two main streets to really join them together.
“When all this is done we will have a 700-seat capacity, that’s the biggest for an independent venue of this kind for miles around.”
He added: “The important thing is for existing businesses not to compete with one another, but work together in a positive way to take people into the town.
“We want to have a positive impact on those around about us.”
Surrounded by dusty toys still in their packaging, tattered Thomas The Tank Engine merchandise and decaying dollies, Dennis told us about his plans for the dilapidated store next door.
Upstairs in a room decorated with a huge Star Wars poster, he described how the barren space will become a micro distillery where gin fans could visit to see how the spirit is made.
Alongside the expansion into the new building, he is hoping to stage music festivals, gin fairs and local produce markets in the outdoor space.
And with a bumper capacity, the venue would be able to cater for busloads of revellers.
Watch as Dennis gives us a tour and explains his big plans –
Move away from ‘pint and nip’ culture
Dennis is keen to shift away from the “pint and nip culture” that has led to the sad demise of many traditional pubs across the UK.
And he is eager to stress that the new addition will not be a mere extension to the existing bar.
Dennis said: “The hospitality industry has taken such a battering, it’s difficult for a lot of businesses to see where to go forward.
“What we are doing next door comes into that, we are pushing forward.
“The problem with pubs just offering that traditional pint and nip culture now is that people can get that at home, they want something more than that when they go out.
“These places can still be good pubs with good clientele and atmosphere, but if they don’t move on from that they might not survive.”
Broch businesses to benefit
Dennis bought Cheers in 2005 and his first enhancement was creating an outdoor area when the smoking ban came into force the following spring.
Since then, he has added more seating to the expansive outdoors, built a roofed area and created a second bar to service a growing customer base.
When asked about ongoing efforts to promote Fraserburgh, Dennis told us just how much pride he has in his hometown.
He said: “Like a lot of small towns, local people can think negatively about it. They take what they have for granted.
“We don’t just want this to benefit us, we want it to benefit a lot of people.
“It’s not just about people coming straight to Cheers, especially when we are staging afternoon or evening events, they might want to visit other pubs or restaurants.
“There’s also the Lighthouse Museum, small boutique shops, an outstanding beach, some really good restaurants; Fraserburgh is a great place for people to visit.
“I wouldn’t invest in this town so much if I didn’t think it had so much potential.”