Brenda and Roy Symon have owned the Westgate in North Berwick since late 2003 but the business and the building that houses it has a much longer history. Roy tells the story.
Cabinet-Makers in ‘Biarritz of the North’
The Westgate came into being long before we took it over. Starting from small beginnings in the second half of the 19th century, the Auld family built up a joinery and cabinet-making business that rode the wave of North Berwick’s growing reputation as the ‘Biarritz of the North’. From furnishing the grand summer residences of the great and good and leasing out beach huts every summer season, to making coffins for those past enjoying the balmy sea air, Wm Auld & Son became a local institution.
Sadly, with the demise of British seaside resorts the business eventually contracted, with the old cabinet-makers’ shop changing hands several times.
When Brenda and I took it over it was a gallery, gift shop and coffee shop, as it still remains, but in a very different style. It was a bit “tired”, business was slow, and our accountant and sundry business advisers told us not to touch it with a proverbial ‘bargepole’!
Brenda in particular could see the opportunity it presented, founded on her wealth experience in both retail and restaurant management. Having been a Buyer and Department Manager with Jenners Department Store in Edinburgh, she had moved to become the Operations Manager of North Berwick’s award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre opening in 2000.
In the meantime, I was tiring of a life in government service and fancied a new challenge. With much of my career in finance and business taxation, teaming up with Brenda to run our own business seemed an obvious way forward that would tap into both our skillsets.
Injecting New Life into North Berwick’s Original Gift Shop
After the 2003 Christmas season, Brenda and I set about transforming the business, through developing the cafe and injecting new life into the gifts and arts. Over the next few years we adapted and extended the retail space by transforming the dark, dingy stockrooms that had once been workshops and stores for the coffins.
With the benefits of the extra space the Westgate has turned into a must-stop gift shop and gallery for locals and visitors. After browsing the fabulous gifts and artwork, you can enjoy an après-shop, artisan coffee with a freshly-baked scone or glass of wine and light lunch in our Orangery Cafe.
The Westgate Galleries Philosophy
As well as offering you a relaxed ambience, we aim to provide the finest range of beautifully designed gifts, artwork and interiors available in North Berwick. We stock unusual, inspiring gifts because we know that if you’re one of our loyal regular visitors you want to see something new. That’s why we are always on the lookout for exciting new design-led gifts and home ideas to complement our well-established, popular brands.
You won’t be surprised to hear that a coastal theme runs through our hand-picked original art, prints, glassware, jewellery, fine toiletries and soft furnishings.
Our friendly staff will ensure you enjoy the Westgate’s tranquil shopping ambience, artisan coffees and teas, home-made cakes, light lunches and perhaps a relaxing glass of wine.
Mon — Sat: 10am - 5.30pm
Sun: 12pm - 5pm