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New post office plans for Wick


By Jean Gunn

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Kevin Milkins outside Birons Ironmongers in Bridge Street, Wick, which has recently been expanded.
Kevin Milkins outside Birons Ironmongers in Bridge Street, Wick, which has recently been expanded.

A Wick businessman's expression of interest in setting up a post office in the town centre has been welcomed.

Kevin Milkins, who runs Birons Ironmongers in Bridge Street along with his wife Dawn, has purchased the former social work building at the shore end of High Street, and has been in talks with Post Office officials.

The announcement comes following the impending closure of the current Wick post office at the end of the month due to the resignation of the postmaster.

Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay, soon to become the provost of Wick, said: "This is fantastic news and I welcome Mr Milkins' interest in having a post office facility in the former social work building.

"Mr Milkins runs a very popular business on Bridge Street and has been a great asset to the town centre. Taking on the social work premises would be another huge improvement in the ambitious regeneration plans for the Royal Burgh."

Wick councillor Nicola Sinclair said: "I’m delighted to hear that Mr Milkins is considering taking on the post office. Mr Milkins already has a very successful business in the town centre and clearly has a strong sense of community spirit.

"It’s absolutely vital that a town the size of Wick has a post office and I wish Mr Milkins all the very best in taking this forward."

The Market Street view of the former social work building in Wick.
The Market Street view of the former social work building in Wick.

Commenting on the purchase of the new premises, Mr Milkins said: "We thought it was a fine building and a shame to see it deteriorate as many other empty buildings are doing in the town. We earmarked it as a possible place to live and expand our business.

"I find it incredibly difficult to imagine a town the size of Wick without a post office and wish the present post office owners all the best for trying as they have, but all plugs have to be pulled to find a solution for all concerned.

"I feel I have done my little bit for the community by chucking my hat in the ring and hope others might give it a go as well."

Mr Milkins and his wife have already been involved in talks with David Duff, area network change manager for the Post Office.

"We kicked some ideas around about how we could make it work for Wick, I think a short-term solution is what is called for followed by investment in a property to accommodate a post office with the right mix of retail," Mr Milkins said.

"Covid seems to be the sticking point for any long term solution at present."

Mr Milkins had looked at ways of bringing the post office into the Bridge Street shop, but social distancing would pose a problem at the moment and have a negative effect on retail space.

The couple have earmarked the end of November for their move into town from Dunbeath. They intend to live in the upstairs of their new premises in High Street, although the exact date will depend on planning consent.

The former social work building in Wick's High Street which looks set to take on a new lease of life.
The former social work building in Wick's High Street which looks set to take on a new lease of life.

Asked about what the intentions were for the floorspace in the building, which many will remember as a furniture store, Mr Milkins said: "It's universally accepted that running a retail post office on its own cannot be a profitable business and we have some exciting ideas that I don't wish to elaborate on just yet. But hopefully will bring something new and fresh to the High Street."

April saw the opening of the new extended shop area at Birons following the renovation of the former K2 Indian restaurant next door.

"It was a very risky strategy to expand at a time when our business was going backwards because of the new traffic regulations, but because there are already twelve empty shops in town and we own the building it was difficult to walk away from it," Mr Milkins said.

"The new addition has been a revelation for us, giving us more room to display and take on new products, also with the Covid situation we hit the jackpot at right time.

"We have gained many new long-term customers that had never been in our shop previously and are delighted with what we have turned an eyesore into."

This has been a welcome boost to the couple who had been considering giving up following the impact the double yellow lines had caused their business.

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