WHILE towns across Gwent have struggled to adapt to the challenges of coronavirus and social distancing in recent months, many traders in Abergavenny are getting on quite nicely.

Some fortune with good weather and a council initiative to pedestrianise the town’s Cross Street from 10am until 4pm has created a hub for shoppers, and traders have worked hard to make sure consumers are confident to visit.

And if the number of people in the town this week is anything to go by, then confident is exactly what they are.

Hundreds were milling around the high street and enjoying what can be defined as a real destination for visitors, which lends itself nicely to pedestrianisation.

Ziggy’s coffee shop, which only opened in the town two weeks ago, has reaped the rewards of being afforded more space to expand outdoors, and they have applied for an adaptation grant to enable them to invest in further external improvements.

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David Sagan, who runs Ziggy’s alongside wife Rebecca, said their weekly takings are 160 per cent above what they require to survive the pandemic.

“It’s actually proved to be the perfect time to get the place,” he said. “The building went down in value due to the pandemic and it’s in the West End of Monmouthshire.

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(David and Rebecca)

“We’ve wanted a place here for a long time but it never worked out – mostly because of the price of the buildings.

“This came up just before lockdown and we jumped at it.”

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(Rebecca at Ziggy's)

They attribute their brilliant start to the location, and Mr Sagan says he is interested to see whether the momentum continues through the winter.

“Most people are sitting outside, and we’ve had great weather so it has worked well,” he said. “We’re taking around 120 transactions a day."

The town is a hub for quirky shops, with lots of coffee stops available too.


“We saw that as a massive positive,” he added. “There are so many boutique shops on Cross Street and we wanted to make sure we fitted in. We’ve tried to style ourselves to suit that.”

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Trader and organiser of the local business community, Lucy Hywel, surveyed all traders on Cross Street and Market Street – which has also undergone partial pedestrianisation – and said all bar two were pleased with the trialled changes.

“I think the council changes have helped for sure,” she said. “It’s helped people to feel comfortable here. It’s a lovely environment with a good ambience.

“I worried when our end of Cross Street was first pedestrianised last year, but I think it has actually worked here.

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(Lucy Hywel)

“Essential shops are disappearing on the high street. People want quirky shops, and we’re lucky we’re not a clone town.”

Abergavenny mainstay Paul Cable says it fills him with pride how the town has managed through the pandemic, and his newspaper sales have increased by more than 100 per day since the start of lockdown.

“I’m delighted to see new shops like Ziggy’s opening up now,” he said. “Some might say we’re oversubscribed with coffee shops, and then another opens. How bold is that?

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(Paul Cable)

“We’re not a particularly quirky shop but we do okay because we do the basics well and we’ve got loyal customers who enjoy coming here.

“I’m selling more than 1,000 papers, and that’s without commerce being back up and running fully.”

Gino Spuntarelli says his tapas bar on Cross Street is doing significantly better than his pizza restaurant at Market Street.

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(Gino at Pizzorante)

“Overall we’ve done okay, and we’ve been surprised how many people were still coming out last week when children had gone back to school,” he said.

“Some people said to me it is because they couldn’t do anything for months in lockdown, they want to go out and enjoy a meal now.

“But with social distancing I can’t accommodate the demand [at Pizzorante]. We’ve had to get rid of lots of tables and I can’t expand outside, which has really had an impact.

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(Market Street this week)

“We can get 30 people in here, but with the restaurant on Cross Street [Tapas Twist] we are doing well because we can go outside. There we are getting 60.

“It’s gutting having to turn people away from our pizza restaurant. During Eat Out To Help Out we had 200 calls a day, and I was turning down most of them.”

Councillor Bob Greenland, cabinet member for innovation and enterprise, said: “Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to create such a buzz in towns like Abergavenny.

“We’ve worked closely with councillors, Y Fenni Business Board and Abergavenny Town Council to ensure businesses and the public are at the heart of every decision, to make the town inviting and the closest to a new normal as it can be in these challenging times.

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"Our residents deserve many thanks as without them Abergavenny would not be the thriving environment it is today. I would like to thank them for having the confidence in these measures and adapting to the changes we’ve made.

"We know we cannot rest on our laurels with this virus and we are constantly moving with the situation to ensure our businesses are able to continue trading and that our residents can continue supporting them.

"We are encouraging business owners to apply for a Town Adaption Grant, which will enable them to purchase items like outdoor seating, awnings, marquees, planters, bollards and many other items to support outdoor trading in the autumn and winter. ”