GIVEN his penchant for Dean Martin, Cole Porter and everything Italian and Neapolitan, it was inevitable that Philip Contini would break into song at some point on Wednesday evening.
The Valvona & Crolla boss was in fine form as the host for the 80th anniversary bash of the legendary Edinburgh deli – an event that attracted the great and the good of the capital’s social and business communities. Among those nibbling the impressive and never-ending canapes and quaffing the rather fine wines were Sir Tom Farmer, Sir Angus Grossart and author Sandy McCall Smith.
Prior to launching into song, Contini gave his audience a potted history of the business, but perhaps worried those eager to indulge in more eating, drinking and networking when he announced he still had 20 more speech cards to go. “I’m only half-way,” he joked.
With the name now a fixture in the capital’s House of Fraser stores, there is every chance the business will be around for another 80 years. And no doubt a Contini will be providing direction.
Cream of the challengers
The speechmakers at last week’s Converge Challenge dinner and awards ceremony had all brushed up on their topical references.
Mervyn Jones, who chairs the entrepreneurial contest for university staff and students, said the judges had been at loggerheads before eventually choosing Strathclyde research fellow Claudia Chen’s Savitur Metrics as the winner. But he promised there would be no “Phil Mickleson moments” at the gala event hosted by Heriot-Watt.
And Touch Bionics boss Ian Stevens said he was “no Ed Milliband” as he brandished his notes at the start of a highly entertaining after dinner speech. “You will get the whole lot,” he said.
Now in its fifth year, the Converge Challenge fielded a record number of applications in 2014 and for the first time included an award for social enterprise.
This was won by Anne Rushing and Zoe Michell from the University of Edinburgh for their art project “Pop Up! Scotland”.
Rising star’s bright future
Andrew Ferguson, director of recruitment business Eden Scott, was left clearly warmed by energy grandee Sir Ian Wood’s speech at the recent Northern Star Business Awards.
Wood was picking up a lifetime achievement gong in front of 800 of Aberdeen’s business community, while Ferguson, 31, was at the other end of the scale being hailed as a “rising star”.
Ferguson said: “From Sir Ian’s thought-provoking speech on securing the city’s long-term future, to sharing and celebrating alongside the other 37 finalists, the evening showcased the wide range of talent the North-east has to offer. The future looks bright for the Granite City.”
Best feet forward
Off to Bathgate for the formal opening and tour of footwear retailer Schuh’s vast new distribution centre.
The hanger-like warehouse just off the M8 will be at the heart of a UK and European expansion for the Livingston-based business, which has been spreading its wings under US owner Genesco.
The opening of the 245,000 sq ft facility should lead to the creation of more than 50 jobs in West Lothian and the top brass from Genesco jetted in to oversee proceedings at Thursday’s launch.
Chief executive Bob Dennis made it clear that the company was “not done yet”, as he hinted at opportunities for other store formats and geographic territories.
He did seem a little upset that he couldn’t have timed his few days in Scotland to begin a little earlier, narrowly missing out, as he did, on a visit to Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup. Though given the defeat for Team USA, that timing may have proved fortuitous.
Meanwhile, Schuh boss Colin Temple recalled the struggles of the early 1990s when the business, having been the subject of a management buyout rescue deal, had its HQ and distribution centre in the basement of a store on Edinburgh’s North Bridge. Changed days, indeed.