A bakery owner has accused regeneration firm Truerlein of breaking promises over a proposed takeover at a Dufftown chipper.
Allison Stewart, who runs Cakes by Alli-Baba in Laurencekirk, has spoken out after her dream to own the shop turned into a nightmare.
It was proposed that Truerlein would purchase the Fife Street business from owners John and Dot McDonald.
Then Mrs Stewart would rent the property and a few years down the line purchase it.
However, the deal never took place and Truerlein was accused of breaking its promises.
Now the property has been put back on the open market.
The firm denies this, saying that Mrs Stewart was only ever a candidate for taking over the business.
What has happened to Truerlein’s regeneration plans?
Truerlein unveiled its New Dawn Dufftown project last April, promising a six-year vision to breathe new life into the town.
But last month, CEO Mhairi-Ann Gallicker came under-fire as plans to kickstart Dufftown have so far failed to materialise.
Critics have accused the regeneration firm of breaking promises and negatively affecting the town.
Mrs Stewart is one of those critics.
She said: “I moved up to Dufftown in 2020 and I was invited along to a meeting about Truerlein’s plans just before Covid struck.
“I was already looking at buying the chip shop and had approached Mhairi Ann Gallicker to learn more about her project to revive Dufftown.
“Then in the June, I reached out to Mhairi about working alongside her to realise my dream.
“The plan was for a couple of years I would pay rent to Truerlein and then within a certain time I would buy it.”
The 46-year-old was hoping to transform a storage building at the back of the premises into a bakery and serve homemade pies and afternoon teas, as well as the normal fish and chip food.
‘The trust is not there’
Correspondence between Mrs Stewart and Truerlein CEO Mhairi Ann Gallicker seen by The Press And Journal, stated: “Effectively, you will be going in as an investing manager and running the business in conjunction with ourselves in the short-term.
“Once I understand how you both envisage the downstairs to run, we can then work out programme and fit-out.
“The upstairs refurb will come at a later date as there is so much to do.”
The trust is not there, I could have given up my business premises in Laurencekirk for nothing.”
Mrs Stewart added: “I was told I could live there until investment to do upstairs arrived and would get full control of the cafe and bakery out of the back.
“I had to submit my business plans, which I did, then I was asked to give financial projections, which I was happy to do, my accountant wrote to them asking who was picking up the financial costs for these projections.
“He never got a response.
“Then they ended up wanting me to go through an interview process which they said was to keep locals happy.
“I was working a month in there with no pay and got introduced to the locals as the new manager of the chip shop and owner.
“It turned out it was just a manager gig with a salary which wasn’t what I was promised.
“The trust is not there, I could have given up my business premises in Laurencekirk for nothing.”
Different vision for business
A Truerlein spokeswoman has refuted Mrs Stewart’s account of their discussions.
She said: “Allison Stewart was a candidate for the role of fish and chip shop manager. We engaged with her early on as we were developing our plans for that business.
“During our conversations with Allison, we explained our model of equity gifting over time as a path to eventual ownership of a business.
“However, it became clear during our discussions that she wished to propose a very different business concept that would combine the chip shop with her existing bakery business, alongside accommodation, a cafe and outside catering, which would potentially undermine existing businesses within the town.
She added that a “lack of a clear understanding of the fish and chip shop business and a lack of alignment with our overall business goals” led to her missing out on the role.
“When we requested a detailed business plan to fully explain her ideas in line with our feedback, and despite extensive guidance on what was expected from this, we received a document that did not meet the standard of quality or credible detail required to carry the discussion forward.
“The person offered the job had 18+ years of experience running his own fish & chip shop in the local area.”
- April 2021 – Truerlein reveals proposed projects to make Dufftown the “beating heart of Speyside”
- May 2021 – Truerlein’s first business kicks off regeneration mission to make Dufftown the ‘beating heart of Speyside’
- June 2021 – Dufftown’s regeneration plan tipped to be the blueprint for the rest of Scotland
- March 2022 – ‘Massively embarrassing’: Truerlein boss apologises after regeneration firm’s ambitious plans for Dufftown fall flat