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From Trimsaran colliery to bakery empire

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Jenkins Staff: Including Fiona Snook (right) celebrate 95 years

Jenkins Staff:
Including Fiona Snook (right) celebrate 95 years

RUSSELL JENKINS is pretty modest in his concise history of the Jenkins Bakery empire. What started out 95 yea rs ago in a small shop in Station Road in April 1921 has since become one of the best known names for baked products in towns across Carmarthenshire and beyond.

Today, the company has 29 shops, 14 of which are in Carmarthenshire. They serve around 60,00 customers weekly. Not bad for the humble beginnings when a certain Mr. Jenkins was made redundant from a colliery in Trimsaran.

The fact that the mine had flooded and become uneconomic sparked a baking revolution in Llanelli, as the Jenkins family set about feeding what would have been a thriving industrial town.

Russell Jenkins doesn’t take any of it for granted as he proudly tells the story of how it all began: “Faced with redundancy and six children to feed, they bit the bullet and opened the ‘Unique Cafe’ in Station Road. It is still known as that by locals. There were plenty of hungry workers down there with lots of people going to Machynys and the industries around there.

Russell told us of a meeting of baking clans, which he says did not do the company any harm.

“My grandmother’s sister married a member of the Eynon’s bakery company in Swansea. They were doing well. Of course, you see and hear things and they decided to make a bakery as well.

“There were six siblings in the family. The elder boys would go to Eynon’s to work and train etc. Meanwhile at the cafe the family were making sandwiches cawl and stews. They used a hob for the stews and casseroles.

“They had a coke oven initially. They started with one shop and then as they began to do well they bought another next door

Speaking fondly of what his grand parents had built up Russell continued: “It was a very bold move to start a business in those days. They worked very hard. They opened before six to catch the shift workers and it would be open until late at night, as well.

“I have worked hard, but back then it was really hard work. We are lucky in that we have a strong management team to keep us going.”

We asked Russell if he had any thoughts on how Llanelli Town Centre has fallen into such decline. He said: “It is sad to see the town centre as it is as a local person. You remember how prosperous the whole town was. Trostre is prosperous, but the town centre is not. People can still take up a store at the market and that is the best way for trying out a business. I’m afraid that any retailer walking through the town today wouldn’t want to invest.”

While Jenkins Bakery are still making many of the products they started out, Russell studied bakery and food technology at Cardiff Met. However the company still use many of the old techniques.

Russell explained: “There will always be a demand for the traditional products we have made from the start. We still use a bake-stone, where the bread is hand moulded then baked on the hotplate. It is then put into the oven. The batter for the pancakes is still made by pouring it on the hot plate.

“The pies have been a main stay in the business as well as pasties, pancakes and custard slices. The pies are made now by machine but a lot are still made by hand because of high demand. We make the sponge for birthday cakes. We try to keep up with the times. Sandwiches and rolls are a big part of the business.”

Jenkins are renowned for providing cakes and biscuits for celebrating big events such as the Six Nations Rugby or the Football World Cup.

Russell told us: “The staff get together and plan ahead and look at what’s happening We create a biscuit or cake to celebrate the event. We have something coming out for the Euro Finals.”

He continued: “We have raised well over £50,000 over the last 5 years for cancer research and Children In Need. We also raise money for local societies”

Jenkins’ main bakery and office employ over 70 people. As a company they employ around 320 people.

Russell said: “We recognise long service and we have 70 people with ten years of service.

“Fiona Snook started as a Saturday girl and she has been with us for 25 years. My mum is still a director at 85. She is very proud and delighted at the way things have gone.

“We have expanded on the shop side. The unique thing is that we make the product, manufacture, distribute and sell. We rely on the shop managers to estimate what will happen from day to day.”

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Business

Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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