A former academic originally from the USA, Sarah Grussing first settled on the Isle of Lewis five years ago with her second husband, Peter Venus, largely so that the couple could be together. Immigration issues made it difficult for Mr Venus to move to Ms Grussing’s home of Denver, and when he secured a job in Stornoway, she crossed the pond.

She then faced the problem of how to make living.

“Central Stornoway was looking pretty sad,” she says. “That was its lowest moment in terms of shop closures. And so, I thought, ‘What if I took one of those shop fronts.’”

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She had come to Scotland with two suitcases and “nothing but good credit”. Nonetheless, several months later, she took premises on Stornoway’s Cromwell Street and opened Lewis Revival, a vintage emporium that blends upcycling materials, second-hand items, local crafts and fair-trade goods, using a £5,000 credit card loan to buy the initial stock.

Within six months, the business was self-supporting. In August last year, it was able to move to larger premises on Point Street.

As the business has grown, so it has evolved, and Ms Grussing attributes its success in part to her determination to listen to the local clientele who are her “bread and butter”. She keeps a notebook where she jots down customer requests and takes this with her when she goes to auctions on the mainland.

“Stornoway is a very limited market,” she says. “If you want to keep your customers, you have to listen to them. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts.”

Retaining customers is also about offering something different, not just from other local shops but from what is available online. In this respect, Lewis Revival – a name that references the shop’s stock, the mini-renaissance that Ms Grussing sees in the local community and personal renewal – is emblematic of high streets everywhere.

“The old department store model just isn’t going to work,” she says. “We miss them, but they are not viable anymore.”

A shop such as Lewis Revival, where many of the items are unique, has a better chance. It also chimes with the Zeitgeist, as consumers begin to emphasise sustainability and follow the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto. In Lewis, where so many of the old ways have been brushed aside, that message truly resonates.

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“There’s a real interest on the island in reconnection,” says Ms Grussing. “I feel really blessed by the elderly people who come into the shop and tell me about a life that is never coming back.”

A business area where that reconnection is felt keenly and that has grown beyond what Ms Grussing expected is vintage Harris tweed. It started when she “liberated” a Vivienne Westwood jacket of tweed woven in Breanish by Ian Sutherland and now encompasses designer items and traditional, heavier-duty Harris tweed.

“It’s become a passion,” says Ms Grussing.

This feeds into a new venture spearheaded by her husband, Peter Venus, and business partner, Tracey Dinner. They recently leased the house behind the current Lewis Revival premises and are selling a collection of designer resale clothing there.

Under the name Empty House Traders, they are also creating a gallery space in the house for artists and makers to exhibit their work. Blue Pig Studio from Carloway has already joined, as have jeweller Elsa Cleminson and weaver Miriam Hamilton. In the New Year, in collaboration with Lewis Revival, they hope to take on a part-time employee with a view to creating further employment in due course.

“I want to get better at what I’m doing and contribute to my community,” says Ms Grussing.