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REBECCA BAIRD: New Dundee EH9 premises is exactly what Blackness needs

The Perth Road business's expansion to Annfield is a savvy business decision, writes Rebecca Baird.

Rebecca Baird at EH9 Annfield, in the Blackness area of Dundee. Image: Supplied.
Rebecca Baird at EH9 Annfield, in the Blackness area of Dundee. Image: Supplied.

As the walking stereotype of an annoying upstart millennial in Dundee, I only want three things from a neighbourhood.

The first, and most important, is a dive bar with cheap drinks, a jukebox and a good pool table, so I can be out without – god forbid – being Out Out.

The second is a beautiful place where I can wander aimlessly while fending off existential dread, preferably featuring some trees and an entertaining selection of cute dogs being walked.

And the third is a posh coffee shop in which to fritter away all my leftover time, money and potential.

Now, when I moved to the Blackness area of the city from the Hilltown a couple of years ago, I gained two out of three.

My local has a pool setup so close to the wall that they’ve sawed off half the cues in order for players to manoeuvre all the way round the table. Stunning.

And I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of nearby Balgay Hill in this column so much that I may just bore myself (but you really should see the big rhododendron at the bottom right now).

The only thing missing was an overpriced chai latte and homemade cinnamon roll within spitting distance of my bedroom.

But not anymore.

Painting the town lilac

Because Perth Road coffee shop EH9 Espresso has transformed an empty unit on Annfield Road into a pastel-hued haven for the posh-coffee-lovers of Blackness.

It’s great to see the old cobblers unit, which I’ve walked by and wondered about for the past two years, being brought back into use and bringing jobs with it.

The fresh coat of paint, in EH9’s signature lilac, seems to have added sunlight into the once-dingy space. And a clever use of built-in seating makes it feel bigger than it is, while still remaining cosy.

It’s only been open a week, but already, the place is booming.

EH9 owner Fraser Smith transformed the old Annfield Road unit into a new branch of his coffee shop. Image: DC Thomson/Google Maps.

And as I write this, the wee strip of street between Clarks Bakery and the fire station is abuzz with trendy students, West End couples on their way into town, and a golden retriever introduced to me as Ralph.

Inside is packed, and keen beans litter the pavement tables even in the gloomy weather. I’ve never seen this many people here.

A girl just walked past holding a bunch of tulips, and waved through the window at someone inside. At the counter, a student is handing in a CV, looking for a summer job.

Owner of EH9 Espresso Fraser Smith outside his new venue on Annfield Road. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson.

Already, a new ecosystem is thriving here, with likeminded people discovering they not only share a taste in coffee, but a neighbourhood too.

And while some people may be surprised at EH9 opening a new branch just a seven-minute walk from their Perth Road one, I understand it completely.

In fact, I’m shocked no one’s done this here already.

Savvy businesses know to target home workers

Blackness has enough amenities on one street that even though it’s a stone’s throw from the city centre, it’s almost a little town all of its own.

Much like Stobswell, it’s an area popular with young professionals, students and freelancers who can’t afford to live in the centre, but still want all that Dundee’s food and drink and cultural scene has to offer.

Rebecca raises a glass (of coffee) to a new spot arriving in her neighbourhood. Image: Supplied.

And especially post-Covid, when nearly 40% of Scots are working from home at least some of the time, businesses have to work hard to entice folk to spend their hard-earned cash.

That means bringing the business from city centres to customers’ doorsteps; in this case, for me, quite literally.

And it works. I’m here, aren’t I?

For those in Blackness who work a remote or hybrid job, EH9 will provide a venue for pre-work caffeine pit stops or lunch hour people-watching excursions.

We’ve already seen this happen with coffee chain Blend’s successful Baxter Park Pavilion outpost.

But the hybrid worker is a market remains largely untapped by city centre businesses.

My friend, also a hybrid worker, reacted to the news of the new EH9 with exactly the same words as I did: ‘Oh! I can go somewhere on my break!’

EH9 a welcome addition to Blackness

It sounds ridiculous, but we don’t have time on lunch breaks to walk 15 minutes for the pleasure of parting with our money. Now two minutes? That we can do.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely shouldn’t be buying a three-quid drink on the daily. Neither my wallet nor my waistline would thank me.

A work-from-home lunch break at EH9 off Blackness Road. Image: Rebecca Baird.

But life is short, time is money, and as I started off saying, I’m a floundering, frittering 29-year-old with little impulse control and a meandering disposition.

Cute little coffee shops like this are catnip to loafing writer types like me – and they know it.

So catch me people watching in the new EH9 on the days where working from home leaves me dying to get out of the house.

After all, why would I leave Blackness? This neighbourhood has everything I need now.