Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Spar Llanrwst Local Shop or Multinational chain?

Llanrwst Spar

Local or Not?

Spar Llanrwst
I grew up just outside Llanrwst in a small village called Trefriw.  My father, at that time managed the local Llanrwst branch of the Midland Bank, as it was called then, now HSBC.  I therefore have fond memories of this market town attending the local high school and probably one or two of the local pubs in my late teenage years.  

Once I left the area to attend college, for a number of years afterwards I lost contact with the the area. But about 12 years ago when I ran a small business producing traditionally made ready meals I was looking for outlets that I could supply.  I heard on the grapevine that the owners of Spar Llanrwst, Justin and Sara McIlveen, were someone I should contact as they supported local producers.

Like many I had always thought of Spar as a big chain and quite unapproachable.  But in fact Spar as a concept has many facets.  Spar is a multinational retail chain operation but the shops are mainly independently owned retailers operating under the Spar banner of which Spar Llanrwst is one.  There is approximately 12,500 Spar stores in 35 countries worldwide.  The Spar stores was founded in the Netherlands in 1932 by retailer Adriaan van Well, and through its independent retailing network of stores it operates in most European countries, parts of Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Justin and Sara McIlveen - 2014 Spar Retailer of the Year Winners
Some of the Spars you see on the UK high street are owned by one of 5 larger individually owned companies that operate the wholesaling side of things as well.  Spar Llanrwst even though independently owned by Justin and Sara but operating under the Spar banner are able to call on the buying power of Spar to stock their store but at the same time stock and support local producers.

Jones o Gymru Crisps at Spar Llanrwst
As previously mentioned the first time I met Justin was when I wanted to persuade him to stock my traditionally made ready meals.  I gave him a ring and arranged to meet him at his Llanrwst Store.  I do not know until this day how it happened but I must have nicked my finger somewhere on my way into the store.  Before I knew it I was sat down in his office when I noticed I was bleeding all over his floor.  Justin was as good as gold got me a plaster, got a mop out and the mess was cleared up in no time.  We then sat back down, he had a look at my products and without hesitation he said when could I start supplying his stores.  I went on to supply his three main shops, Llanrwst, Rhos-on-Sea and Penmaenmawr for quite a few years afterwards until I sold my business in 2008.

Llaeth y Llan Yogurts

I moved away from the food sector after 2008 for a number of reasons but in recent times my interest has peaked again, hence this blog.  I was therefore interested to meet Justin again when he got in touch recently, to see if he had carried on with his enthusiasm for local products.

Halen Mon at Spar Llanrwst

He invited me over for a coffee a few days ago and he proudly showed me around his store.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did he still stock local products but the range had increased considerably from when I was last in his store.  Available now in his store are locally made crisps, yogurts, milk, cakes, cheeses, sausages, bacon, cawl (soups), beers by the dozen, cider, even goat meat and I have received a tweet since my meeting saying he is expecting a first delivery of rose veal. The suppliers stocking his store are established names such as Llaeth y Llan, Edwards of Conwy, Blas ar Fwyd, Siwgr a Sbeis, Cenarth Cheese, Snowdonia Cheese, Conwy Bragdy, Halen Mon and more but also some of the more recent suppliers are Glasfryn Bacon, Jones o Gymru Crisps, Blodyn Aur (Rapeseed Oil), Conwy Goat Meat and as mentioned Barcut Rose Veal.

Glasfryn Bacon

Yes it is true that Justin and Sara can call on the multinational Spar for many of the products they stock but there is no doubt that they are both proud of the fact that their stores in Llanrwst, Penmaenmawr and Rhos-on-Sea are locally owned independent stores.  I am also quite sure that there is more of a variety of locally produced Welsh products on the shelves of spar Llanrwst and it's sister shops than you might find in either Tesco, Asda or any of the other multinational Supermarkets.

Edwards of Conwy Sausages and Bacon
I can highly recommend a visit to Spar Llanrwst and I look forward to visiting some of the suppliers of these fantastic local produce.  Also to hear some of their background stories and to try and cook with some of the products they produce.

Beers by the dozen at Spar Llanrwst

Birchgrove Eggs from Trawscoed Mid-Wales

A Selection of Welsh Cheeses in the chiller section of Spar Llanrwst

Welsh Rapeseed Oil ideal for cooking or as a dressing.

1 comment:

  1. Great post ! I think just about all our Spar stores are privately owned in South-Africa with most stores quite small, but others are almost hypermarket caliber.