Family business honoured at museum
10:41am Thursday 12th June 2014 in News
A new permanent display Ash's Shop is about to open at Abertillery and district museum. Pictured is museum curator Don Bearcroft outside the display shop. (7023046)
A FAMILY-run business which has been trading in Abertillery for 114 years has been immortalised with a permanent display in a museum.
The Abertillery and District Museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has recreated the original shop front for Ash's, which is based in the town centre arcade.
The new display was unveiled in front of members of the Ash family.
Ash's has been owned by the same family for 114 years, starting off as a saddlery, dealing with all things leather - horse harnesses, bags and even fixing and making shoes.
In the Ash's in the museum, visitors can see original leather bits, horse tacks and shoe making equipment which have been donated by the Ash family prettily presented in the window display. It also boasts a large painting by artist Geraint Derbyshire of a saddler at work.
The saddler has been painted to look like Desmond Emanuel, the father of current Ash’s owner Liz Wiles, 60.
When horsedrawn carriages went out of fashion, the shop evolved to keep up and began selling toys and sportswear. Now the front part in the arcade is run by Mrs Wiles, who sells bespoke wedding bouquets and wedding favours, while her son Stephen Wiles, 37, runs the older part of shop which boasts original 1900s flooring, clock and till, and still sells sports equipment, cutting keys and fixing shoes.
Don Bearcroft, 71, has been the Abertillery and District Museum's curator since 1991. He remembers visiting Ash's as a boy and buying himself model airplanes to make at home.
He said: "They used to have a whole shelf of the boxes, and you'd rummage around until you found what you want. Then, in the seventies when I was working as an electrician and my boys were small, i used to pop in after work and buy them toy cars.
"Everyone in Abertillery knows the Ash family. They are very well respected and well liked. All the displays in the museum tell the story of Abertillery in different ways, and Ash's is very much a part of the town's history."
Mr Bearcroft, who won the UK-wide heritage hero award in 2008 for his work at the museum, said: "The Ash’s have always supported this museum, so having them opening the display is great."
Mrs Wiles said: "It's lovely for the family to be recognised. My son runs the older part of the shop, and when he was young he used to come in and help my father, his grandfather, working in here.
"It is very much a family business, and we offer an old fashioned service. We have struggled, particularly with internet competition, but people like that we offer something a bit different. We are still going and are looking forward to seeing the display."
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