Penarth Local Businesses; what happens behind the counter? An insight into what it’s like for local businesses and how you, as the community and as customers, play a vital role in the town where you can meet, greet and eat.

This article is written by Olivia Goodman, a Welsh Baccalaureate student at Stanwell School, who recently volunteered with Penarth Businesses Group for their qualification. Thank you.

PENARTH-synonymous to its residents with the picturesque pier, to the magical marina. Yet, Penarth is proud of what lies in between. From bakeries to florists, to bespoke glass craft, the vibrant town is filled with unique and quality independent businesses that flourish with the support of the local community. 

However, as summer hibernates, businesses amidst the wintry and chilly period find themselves facing a hurdle, unlike conglomerate chains and supermarkets. Not to mention that the current economic issues heighten the challenges which Independent businesses face. For example, the problems that occur for local businesses can include a decline in support, due to the convenience of online businesses such as Amazon, lack of financial aid as energy costs soar and mounting bills from landlords. 

Sauntering through the highstreet, down past the railway and opposite the popular Paget Rooms, you’ll find the distinctive and delightful business, Glass by Design. The business opened its doors in 2016 and since then, the owners Angelina Hall and Cathy O’Doherty have been sharing their passion for glass bespoke creations to the community of Penarth. 

Angelina Hall and Cathy O’Doherty

Nevertheless, they as a small independent find that “The challenges of running a business on the High Street requires continual reinvention, diversifying and trying to be a step ahead of the next potential disaster that is coming down the line.” The tumultuous time in which we currently live means that small businesses encounter added pressures, which sometimes can be unseen, unaided and unjust. In the current climate, Glass by Design finds that “the economic goal posts are moving continually for us all.”

At the heart of the community, Willmore’s 1938, a family-owned business has shared the same issues which other independent businesses have had to overcome. After 5 years of serving and supplying the community, especially after the COVID-19 Pandemic, partners Matt and Charlotte Holland had to close their cafe on Stanwell Road after their lease had not been renewed. 

Yet, with resilience and determination, Willmore’s 1938 opened their doors and welcomed in the community again to their kiosk cafe found in the Cliff Parade. The friendly atmosphere is hard to miss as you step into the kiosk, where customers are greeted by welcoming staff, exquisite baked goods and the comforting smells of freshly brewed coffee. 

Matt Holland and Charlotte Holland

When asked about what the importance of shopping locally means to independent businesses, Matt said that it “Drives the local economy, keeps people local and reduces the use of carbon emissions because people are not travelling to shopping centres and parking.”

Even though during the hard winter months it can be extremely difficult for local businesses, Matt said that there are rewarding times when being an independent, “Dealing with people locally, having regular faces and chatting, mainly it’s good for individuals to have that. These big companies sometimes lose that, we pride ourselves on being friendly and personal.” Unlike the multi-location chains, independent businesses have to strive to get their name out there. 

The key role in aiding these businesses to thrive, survive and revive is you, the local community. Matt says that the best tool is “social media” which helps to “encourage and to inform people on what we do and how we support locally.” Also, independent businesses are at the centre of the community, so for Matt, he says that “we’re trying to fight harder for local charities and the community, than big massive chains.”

Nonetheless, do independents still have challenges? The answer is yes. For example, Matt tells us that ‘‘Electricity and gas issues that we’ve got at the moment” means that “prices have shot through the roof so that is a big concern for us. These big companies have massive reserves and borrow massive amounts of money from their bank and they can make sure they can get through this period, but for us it is much more difficult.” Similar to the community, Willmore’s 1938 aims to shop locally themselves, “we look at supporting local businesses, buying good quality products- so that’s the way we do it.”

Businesses are of the pinnacle of a flourishing community spirit and with your help in the future, we as a community can feel prouder of the town we live in by purchasing in Penarth. The importance of shopping locally is undeniable; boosting the local economy, supporting jobs and obtaining quality items. By seeing what happens behind the counter, next time you pass a local independent, be sure to pop in, browse around and speak to the wonderful individuals who keep this town blossoming.