The Tyne is right for deli expansion

SCOTLAND'S oldest delicatessen, Valvona & Crolla, is hoping to repeat its success in the Capital as it celebrates the opening of a new branch in Newcastle.

The Edinburgh institution, which has traded from Elm Row since 1934, is officially launching its concession in the city's Fenwick department store today - its first branch outside of the Capital.

Managing director Philip Contini, who runs the company with wife Mary and daughter Francesca, said that the outlet was "a small step" in establishing whether the famous brand could be successful beyond the Capital.

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He said: "We've been persuaded to give this a go by Fenwick's food and catering manager, Audrey McLuckie. She was restaurant manager at John Lewis in Edinburgh before she moved to Tyneside, and she was confident what we have to offer would be popular in Newcastle.

"It isn't a store or an outlet, but, rather, we have been given a space in its food court to sell goods with the Valvona & Crolla brand. We'll see how that goes for six months. Then, if it's successful, we'll look at maybe establishing a more permanent business there.

"It's been something we've thought about doing for a while, and we really wanted to see whether it would work outside of Scotland. We have a lot of customers who come up from Newcastle to shop in our Edinburgh store and attend our tasting events, so it was the ideal place to try and set something up.

"Newcastle is a very vibrant and busy city. It has an interesting commonality with Edinburgh, and, because it is so close, we'll be able to operate it from here.

"Fenwick is a reputable long-established firm, with stores in several big cities down south."

Mr Contini said that he had no desire to start an "empire" of Valvona & Crolla stores across the UK, despite the potential for a separate store in Newcastle.

And he stressed that the company would continue to focus on the service it currently provides to its customers in Edinburgh.

He said: "We're looking at taking it very slowly and steady with this. The problem is that, if you try to expand too quickly, the business ends up suffering as a result."

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Earlier this year Mr Contini confirmed that the renowned deli was looking to set up franchises elsewhere in Britain, after the success of the store's VinCaffe business on Multrees Walk.

At the time he said the company was looking to set up a business in either Newcastle or Glasgow.

A Fenwick spokeswoman said: "Valvona & Crolla have set up a space in our food court and we are delighted to have them here."