THE number 99 – for many Scots an ice cream cone with a chocolate flake on top – has taken on a new meaning for a fish and chip shop in Galston, East Ayrshire as the business owners prepare to notch up a century in the same family.

Adolfo (Big Dave) and Desiderio Lucchesi founded The Principal Cafe in Brewland Street in 1919 and it has been in the family’s hands since, the latest incumbent being Liam Lucchesi Mair.

The establishment has been through several incarnations, and two fires, but is now in pristine condition after a refurbishment helped by a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) grant from East Ayrshire Council and Historic Environment Scotland. This has enabled major renovations to be carried out on the historic building’s roof, exterior and stonemasonry, making it fit for the 21st century.

Iva, the daughter of Albano Lucchesi – a son of Adolfo and wife Eufemia – who has retired from the business, was delighted with the renovation: “What can I say, it’s absolutely fantastic. The roof was badly needing done – we could have barely afforded to do even the roof and the rest was equally needing attention.

“Before the work was done it was costing us thousands on repairs, repairs, repairs, it was a constant drain on the business.

“It’s been a huge boost, it looks fantastic, the guys have done a wonderful job.”

The Principal Cafe is also the only outlet outside Irvine with permission to sell award-winning Vanilla Joe’s ice cream, which started life in 1949 when Adolfo commissioned the building of an ice cream factory in Titchfield Street and sold it from a nearby kiosk, while Albano ran the fish and chip shop. Vanilla Joe’s is produced by his cousin Marco to an old family recipe.

Iva said some had questioned the value of grants for refurbishing old buildings, but she said it was about more than simply bricks and mortar.

“It helps us keep our business healthy, meaning we can provide jobs, take on and train young staff and keep our costs manageable and prices reasonable,” she said.

“Upstairs we’ve now got good quality rented accommodation providing homes which might otherwise eventually have become uninhabitable, so we’re able to provide homes, opportunities and employment. We’ve had to make a significant investment ourselves and a make a commitment to keep the building for 10 years or pay some of the grant back.”

The cafe’s overhaul added to a list of road closures and building works in the town, but Iva said it had brought everyone together, and traders were all talking to each other and working together.

“I know some people are frustrated with the current building works in the town, but I can’t complain about the disruption. I think what they’re doing is brilliant. It’s all to the good of the town.

“If the town is improved, and other proposed developments nearby go ahead, people will come and visit. If we stop and think about the local tradesmen and young people who’ve gained and stayed in skilled jobs thanks to all the restoration works and the training in traditional skills they’ve undertaken, the regeneration projects are definitely a win-win for the whole area.

“As a family, we were welcomed here almost a hundred years ago, and with the ongoing help we’ve had from East Ayrshire since the 1990s we can hope to be thriving here for a long time to come.”

Jim Roberts, the councillor responsible for the economy and infrastructure added: “Iva and her family epitomise the hard-working and enterprising spirit of many East Ayrshire businesses – thinking beyond their own needs and taking care to employ and encourage new employees and young people.

“It’s a great example of how we can work with local businesses, in practical ways, to help them survive, grow and provide opportunities for others while enhancing the local environment for all who live and work here.”