Long-time town centre sports shop owner Joe Forte reflects on Haddington town centre’s challenges
The Forte name has been on Haddington High Street since 1963, when Joe Forte’s Italian father opened a café. Four months after that closed in 1985, Joe opened his sports shop. Here he reflects on his journey and the challenges ahead for the town.
“My dream was to play professional football, but when that was curtailed, I turned my passion for sport into a business. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’ve always appreciated working for myself, and being my own, boss. In particular, I’ve enjoyed having a shop in the High Street as I enjoy meeting and helping people, and being involved in the local community.
“I’m very optimistic about the future for Haddington. I really appreciate what we have here – and know many people do. There will be a boom in the population in the coming years which will hopefully be good for the economy – and the town centre must tap into that.
“We already have many community groups doing a lot for the town and we need to keep this going. Look at what Blooming Haddington have achieved in such a small amount of time, winning gold medals in Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom, and winning the RHS Best Town in Britain. This involved a huge, positive, community effort.
“As well as that, the comments from the judges about the town in general were amazing. They commented on the incredible architecture and structure of the town, and that reinforced to me what potential we do have.
“Haddington is the hub of East Lothian and I see a lot of my customers coming from the surrounding area. The challenge right now is to make the town centre the place to shop and visit, to get the empty shops filled, and to harness the positive work being done by the community groups and East Lothian Council.”