Traditional town centre fixtures which served communities for centuries – such as bakers; butchers; fishmongers and greengrocers – are having a hard time on British high streets, with many of them unable to weather the competition with large chain supermarkets.
But in Wrexham, a traditional butchers in the heart of town is bucking trends and continuing to serve the same community which has served for four generations.
Hugh John Jones Butchers, on Henblas Street, has long links with the people of Wrexham – and not just the sausages behind the counter!
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The butchers is run by Giles Jones and Russell Jones (no relation) backed by two other members of staff.
The shop sells a range of pork, beef, lamb and poultry – and, at Christmas, game – the majority of which is sourced within 30 miles of Wrexham, all except for salt marsh lamb from Anglesey.
The business was founded by Giles’ great -grandfather, Hugh John Jones, in 1886, and has been in the town since then. The shop initially stood in the Butchers Market, and moved to Henblas Street in 2010.
Giles’s father, also named Hugh John Jones, ran the butchers for more than 50 years, and was also a well-known face to Wrexham FC fans as “John the Bell”, so-called for his habit of using a loud handbell to get the supporters going during half-time at games both home and away.
Giles said that the business’ longstanding links with the people of Wrexham had seen it built up a loyal customer base – some of whom are following in the footsteps of earlier generations within their families.
“People have been coming here for generations”
He said: “We know everyone – and everyone knows us.
“We’ve got people that have been coming here for generations – we’ve got third generation customers. I’m fourth generation and both of my sons have helped me.”
He added: “We’re 131 years old – but we don’t look it!”
The business has seen some downturn in recent years as Wrexham Town Centre has changed – but Giles remains cautiously optimistic for the future of the town and the business.
Giles said: “Things are better in the centre of town at the moment than they have been, but something needs to happen.”
He added that the business had been able to take advantage of regular monthly Street Festivals, by holding an outdoor barbecue selling cooked meat baps and sandwiches.
“It has improved in the last few months and we’re working hard on that improvement.
“BHS has been bought, and once the work at the Peoples Market is done, things will be on the up.
“One of the things that would really help us would be free half-hour parking on Chester Street and High Street, so people can drive as close to the shops as possible”
He added that while recent years had seen a downward trend in the fortunes of the town centre, the butchers was continuing to remain optimistic.
“We’re soldiering on, and we’re working our utmost to remain upbeat.”
Cllr Terry Evans, Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Economic Performance and Regeneration, said: “It’s to the credit of traditional businesses such as Hugh John Jones Butchers that they have been able to keep going as high streets and customer habits have changed.
“Times have been hard on high streets, recently – we’ve seen that in Wrexham as in elsewhere in the UK. And it’s been especially hard on traditional businesses who deal in produce, as customers have switched to large supermarkets.
“Still, Giles and the team at Hugh John Jones Butchers have managed to weather the storm and continue to serve the people of Wrexham, the same way their forebears have for 131 years.
“I wish them all the best for the next 131 years!”
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