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How Elgin family centre turned venue where The Beatles played into natural home for children’s parties

Fika has capitalised on the growing demand for hospitality in Elgin town centre by filling a gap in the market.

Leanne Shand in Fika playroom with children and staff behind.
Leanne Shand says parents were looking for a new venue in Elgin to host parties. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Staff at Fika believe their child and family centre is capitalising on a growing demand for hospitality businesses in Elgin town centre.

The venue opened in 2022 to fill a gap in the market to organise children’s parties and baby sessions in the heart of the town.

Two years on, staff say they could put on five times as many events as they do if they were not constrained by space.

And they are adamant Fika’s location in a prominent building within Elgin town centre has been one of the keys to their success so far.

Spotting demand for inclusive and affordable Fika parties and events

Fika, which leases space inside the Kaizen School of Kickboxing, is instantly recognisable within Elgin town centre from the big flags outside on South College Street.

The building is perhaps most fondly known in the town as being the former Two Red Shoes, which famously hosted The Beatles in 1963.

A plaque on the wall outside commemorates the gig. Today the room where the Fab Four took to the stage as the Love Me Do Boys continues to play host to music, just a very different kind.

Fika staff outside the building.
Fika leases space inside the Kaizen School of Kickboxing. Pictured: Fika staff Jade Cruickshank and Leanne Shand. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Parents with their babies and toddlers regularly pack the former concert hall for afternoons of nursery rhymes and songs.

And Taylor Swift, Pokemon and glow in the dark-themed birthdays for children up to 12 come to life with loud music and endless fun.

After initially only operating downstairs, rising demand led to the upper floors being converted into a cafe with a sensory room also added.

Leanne Shand, who works at Fika, said: “The parties have been unbelievably popular, we can’t meet demand at the moment.

“There was a gap in the market for parents. Previously they had to either hire a hall and do it all themselves or hire Pinz outside the town centre. We’re the third option.

Silver metal plaque commemorating Beatles gig in Elgin.
The Beatles visit to what is now Fika and Kaizen is commemorated on the wall outside. Image: DC Thomson

“We really try to be as inclusive as we possibly can be, so there’s a sensory room for children who have additional needs. There’s not really anywhere else in Elgin that does that.

“We want to make it a safe place for families to come with their children and not have to worry about organising things themselves.”

Worries Elgin parking charges add extra cost for parents

Despite not being a retail shop, bar or restaurant, Fika, which is Swedish for appreciating the good things in life, faces the same challenges as other Elgin town centre businesses.

And the challenges of being just off the High Street mean factoring in the cost of parking when setting the price of sessions.

With most music sessions lasting 45 minutes and costing £6, families have to pay an extra £2 to park for more than an hour nearby.

Leanne Shand inside Fika playroom with children.
Fika tries to keep prices low to allow parents to pay cover parking costs. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Fika worker Cheryl Burchell said: “One of the main issues we have is the parking situation, or more specifically the cost.

“If you want to park right next to Fika then it can cost £2, £3, £4, depending on how long you are staying.

“So we’re very aware that when parents are paying to come here, they’re also going to be thinking about how much the parking is.”

However, the parking charges do not mean Fika is considering moving to an out-of-town location.

Children on inflatable slide inside Fika.
Inflatables add to the fun inside Fika. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Cheryl said: “Being in the town centre has other benefits. Parents know where you are, rather than working out where you are on an industrial estate.

“The central location also means we’re close to other things like Cooper Park. There are a lot of plans for the park so we’re hopefully close enough to benefit from them too.”

Hopes for growth of hospitality growth in Elgin town centre

Fika is not the only children’s venue to open in Elgin town centre recently with Toy Toon also opening its doors in 2022.

With national retailers moving out and leaving gaps on the High Street and surrounding area, different types of firms are opening up to fill the gaps.

And with regeneration projects underway at Elgin Town Hall and Grant Lodge to help develop more of an evening economy, Fika believes it is in the perfect place to capitalise on the changing times.

Exterior of Fika.
Fika is on South College Street, on the opposite side of the A96 from Cooper Park. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Leanne said: “Hospitality is definitely growing in Elgin. I think it works well here.

“We’ve definitely seen that since us and Toy Toon opened up there are more prams getting pushed around, which is great to see.

“It’s important to just have people thinking about the town centre as a destination, whether it’s in the morning when parents come to us or in the evening.

“Elgin is a nice community to be part of. It’s a beautiful place. I think with some of the developments going on at the Town Hall and elsewhere it’s only going to improve things.”

Read more about Elgin town centre businesses