Blaenavon may be small in terms of the number of shops and services it offers, but punches well above its weight when it comes to quality.
Broad Street and its vicinity has a number of niche traders alongside the sort of shops you’d expect to see on the local high street - but it also features several award-winning businesses.
These are Artie Craftie – which doubles up as the town centre’s only Post Office – Blaenafon Cheddar Company, Butterflies Bar & Kitchen, The Lion Hotel and training provider RWA.
These sit alongside stores ranging from those selling food, drink, crafts, jewellery, pet supplies, newspapers - and even guitars - to those offering services including hair salons and barbers, beauticians, caterers, florist, funeral directors, hardware and electrical supplies, a tattooist, dog grooming parlour, turf accountant, graphic designer and photographers. A list with the contact details for each of these can be found below the short profiles of our award-winners.
Artie Craftie has picked up almost an award a year since opening in 2014. Along with boasting an Aladdin's cave of arts and craft materials, owners Nick and Wendy Horler stepped up in 2015 to save Blaenavon’s Post Office from being lost forever.
So as well as consistently taking Welsh and English Government honours for best shop, the distinctive purple building at the bottom of Broad Street is also a double winner of the UK Post Office's Independent Retailer of the Year and was Highly commended by the Retail Industry Awards 2018.
Artie Craftie stocks a range of wool and haberdashery, Welsh gifts and stationery and has a photography studio which offers photographic and framing services and is a one-stop shop for printing and photocopying.
The Post Office, meanwhile, provides the usual postal services, vehicle tax, personal and business banking, bill payment, e-top ups and foreign currency.
Artie Craftie was the first Blaenavon business and first post office and craft shop in Wales to become Dementia Friendly.
Blaenafon Cheddar Company
Blaenafon Cheddar Company is another business that has been winning recognition virtually since the day it began in 2006.
The specialist Cheddar cheese company has no factory - all products are handmade at its shop in Broad Street by the family of owner and Managing Director Susan Fiander-Woodhouse and husband Gerry.
Many of the cheeses are flavoured with local alcohol including Celtic Spirit whisky, Black Mountain Welsh Liqueur, Brains SA, Reverend James Ale and Taffy Apple Cider. The Cheddar Company’s Pwll Mawr Cheddar is actually matured 300ft below ground at the bottom of the mine shaft at Big Pit National Coal Museum.
The business’s bulging trophies cabinet houses most recent accolades South East Wales Regional winner, Tourism Business Innovation Awards Wales 2018 and Countryside Alliance Rural Enterprise Award 2018.
Other titles through the years include Visit Wales Tourism Ambassador, True Taste of Wales, British Cheese medals and Great Taste medals.
Butterflies Bar & Kitchen
Butterflies Bar & Kitchen has gained a growing reputation over the past two decades as one of Torfaen’s best and most popular restaurants.
Originally built in around 1832 as The Cross Keys? public house to quench the thirst of local miners and ironworkers, over the years, two neighbouring cottages were added to create additional space.
In the late 1990s, the pub was refurbished and turned into a restaurant which quickly established a name for good quality food. Current owner Dayne Watkins has worked at Butterflies since 2006 and took over in June 2015, helping boost the restaurant’s reputation still further.
As well as being voted number one restaurant in Blaenavon by TripAdvisor users for the past eight years, the beer garden has won Best Commercial Garden (in what competition?) for the past six years. Dayne also won local magazine Voice Awards Chef of the Year 2017/18.
The Lion Hotel
The historic Lion Hotel, the scene of a political riot following a 19th century election, is today a multi-award winning establishment.
In 2014, the building underwent an extensive renovation to provide 12 contemporary en-suite bedrooms, a spa and fine dining restaurant. It was immediately awarded a Visit Wales 4-star grading for its excellent standards of accommodation.
In 2018, The Lion was awarded an AA Rosette for culinary excellence, one of only 16 restaurants in Wales to be awarded such a high grading. At the same time, it was awarded an AA 4-Star Silver Award for hospitality, making it only the fourth in Wales to receive such an honour.
The hotel sources only the freshest local ingredients for its lunchtime and evening meals and Sunday roasts, and prides itself on providing a friendly, personable service in a relaxing and professional environment.
Blaenavon hosts the headquarters of a business consultancy with satellite offices in London, Manchester, Southampton and Pembrokeshire.
For more than 20 years, RWA has helped educate thousands of individuals and businesses to run more efficient enterprises and achieve their goals.
The company’s e-Learning platform, My Development Zone, won the ‘Best Use of Technology within Education’ award at the Wales Online Digital Awards 2018.
The platform features over 450 bite-sized e-Learning courses designed to help clients improve core skills and knowledge across a range of professional and ‘soft’ skill topics.
“The My Development Zone team at RWA has spent the last few years crafting a solution that is helping to bridge the skills gap across sectors,” said RWA Director, Tom Wood.
“We have shown that digital solutions can grow organically and the community of thousands of learners who benefit from our skills development platform also help drive our innovation in a sustainable way, by providing usage data and direct feedback.”