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Owner thanks "amazing" customers for support as vegan eatery Café Kombucha on Elgin High Street closes


By Jonathan Clark

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THE owner of Elgin vegan eatery Café Kombucha has thanked customers for their "amazing support" after being forced to close.

Sarah Doonan-Borthwick, who lives on the premises and has been working alone since April, made the difficult decision to shut the much-loved café due to the rising cost of bills.

Sarah Doonan-Borthwick outside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.
Sarah Doonan-Borthwick outside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.

The stress Sarah, originally from Burghead, has been put under while working on her own was also an influencing decision – with her mental health negatively impacted by running a business solo.

"Coronavirus was horrendous, we had to close due to the two-metre rule, then there is Brexit and energy price rises have been the final nail in the coffin," she explained.

"I'm just about getting by just now but I'm not going to manage when prices go up again in October so I had to make the decision to close now.

"You can't get blood out of a stone and nobody has expendable income at the minute. The doom and gloom economic situation means people are coming out less.

"It's a shame – it's another shop shut on the high street and, as far as I can see, it's going to get a hell of a lot worse for any business that uses energy as its main tool."

Sarah Doonan-Borthwick outside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.
Sarah Doonan-Borthwick outside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.

Due to living upstairs from the café, Sarah – who has two children aged 20 and 18 – is faced with the potential of a period of homelessness, although she said the council, who own the flat, and friends have been incredibly helpful.

That support – combined with the support from customers and well-wishers online – has helped ease the pain of closing the business, which was originally opened in October of 2018.

Back then, Sarah renovated a derelict building, formerly owned by Life Skills, turning it into somewhere for her and her family to live and work.

"I spent my inheritance making this a unique café and a three-bedroom home for my family," she said.

"Lots of friends have offered me accommodation to see us over the worst us this – but the council are great and they aren't just going to throw me out tomorrow.

"The customers have been amazing, too. I couldn't read all of the messages I got after closing – my phone is still going – but I've had a lot of support.

"It's nice to know that the café will be missed and, while I feel like I've let the customers and my family down, reading the messages I'm getting that doesn't seem to be what people think.

"I want to say a huge, massive thanks to everybody that has supported me, it means an awful lot.

"I'm down but not out. I'll pick something up again. I'm strong on the vegan cause and there's nowhere like this in Elgin so I need to make another stamp on the industry – and I will once things have calmed down."

Another factor in the decision to close was the impact running the café was having on Sarah mentally.

Over the years, she has been advocating positive mental health – but after her team was reduced from five to just one, with her business partner Thomas Coombs leaving in April, things became increasingly stressful.

Sarah Doonan-Borthwick and Thomas Coombs inside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.
Sarah Doonan-Borthwick and Thomas Coombs inside Cafe Kombucha which is unfortunately closing...Cafe Kombucha Closing, Elgin...Picture: Beth Taylor.

"It's been tricky doing the books, running the business and doing everything myself," she said. "Thomas left in April and that has definitely taken its toll.

"I've always been very honest about mental health – I've never had a great record with it and I haven't painted any rosy pictures.

"I had to make this decision in part to avoid a breakdown. I'm a strong person and try to see the positives but there's only so much you can do."

The tables outside of the building will be left behind for public use, along with Elgin BID's pink bench.


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