A unique support scheme helping Merthyr Tydfil entrepreneurs showcase their goods and services on the High Street has seen the launch of the town centre’s first vintage tearooms.
Lunah Tearooms has opened on the site of one of the most iconic old stores in the historic Pontmorlais section of the town, which has undergone a £3.7m regeneration joint-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and Cadw.
What was once Flooks jeweller’s shop will be the venue for the next six months for bespoke afternoon and gentlemen’s teas, baby showers and children’s parties – thanks to the ‘Meanwhile’ programme run by the Council and Merthyr Tydfil Enterprise Centre (MTEC).
Lunah Tearooms owner Catherine Poole has also received £3,500 from the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places Programme (VVP) to fit-out the shop.
Through the Meanwhile scheme – which matches entrepreneurs with vacant buildings and willing landlords – Catherine has received business and financial planning support from MTEC, with the Council securing a tenancy for her with Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association.
“The Meanwhile project is an extremely exciting opportunity for new and existing businesses to test trade their goods and services for a period of up to six months, while also enhancing the offer of the town centre,” said Centre Manager Rhian Prosser.
“Through the MTEC programme, traders are supported with business advisors to ensure the business is sustainable and can then continue to trade independently of the project.”
Catherine Poole from Troedyrhiw has 25 years of baking experience and, after taking redundancy, decided to turn her dream of a vintage tearoom into reality.
Lunah is very much a family affair, being named after the owner’s daughters Lucy and Hannah, with a range of preserves and chutneys for sale that are handmade by Catherine’s mother Mary Davies in aid of the Trinity Child and Family Centre in Aberfan, where Lucy works.
Specialising in homemade cakes baked daily on the premises and serving a range of teas using the finest china, customers will also be able to buy sandwiches and baguettes, salads and hot snacks.
“I’ve always loved to bake and after over 27 years working for a large organisation, I decided it was time for a change.
“After attending a business start-up course run by the Welsh Innovation Centre of Excellence (Welsh ICE) in Caerphilly, I approached Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, who told me that the former Flooks Jewellers could be available.
“Lunah Tearooms is the realisation of a long held dream for me. We’ve had such a positive reaction from the public, with the afternoon teas being a big hit – and our Facebook page has had some wonderful reviews. I have a great team of staff and amazing family support and I hope that Lunah Tearooms will go from strength to strength.”
Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Councillor Brendan Toomey said one of the aims of Meanwhile was to bring in businesses that were offering something new to the Town Centre.
“Lunah Tearooms is the fourth scheme user and another example of how the programme is positively impacting on people’s lives while also occupying vacant premises,” he added. “We are excited to welcome yet another new offer which also fits perfectly with the historic setting and listed buildings of Pontmorlais.”
Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association Chief Executive Karen Courts said the Association was delighted to work in partnership with the Council on the Meanwhile project, which was a great way to help new local businesses to get a healthy start.
“Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association is more than just a housing provider,” she added. “We are committed to supporting communities and playing a key role in regeneration projects, as demonstrated by our redevelopment of the Old Town Hall – Redhouse, which has made a huge contribution to the success of the town centre regeneration.
“Whenever possible we support local firms, and we are sure that Lunah Tearooms will be a huge success in their home at Flooks.”
Lunah Tearooms is open from 8am-4pm from Monday to Friday; from 9am-4pm Saturday and closed Sunday. Visit www.lunahtearooms.co.uk; tel 01685 373081.