Welcome to our fourth episode of Meet the Family, our series where we shine a spotlight on some of our wholesale customers.
Melin Tregwynt is a wool mill based in the remote woods of Pembrokeshire, producing Welsh wool blankets, cushions, clothing, accessories and bags. There’s been a mill on the site since the 17th century, and it has been owned by the same family since 1912, who have been keeping the tradition of Welsh wool blankets alive with their timeless designs. The mill employs 44 people, 22 of which work across the cafe and shop, as well as casual staff over the summer.
After a drive down some narrow, winding country roads, we arrived at the mill and were welcomed by an assortment of beautiful sounds, sights and smells; a bubbling brook, beds of wildflowers and fresh coffee, to name a few. It all felt so remote and serene that it was no wonder our phone signal dropped out completely—and we didn’t miss it.
Louise, who runs the cafe and has recently become a director under the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT), showed us around the beautiful cafe. It’s a light, airy space with a buzzy atmosphere and a tempting assortment of cakes, and the outdoor space extends out into picnic tables and covered tables so you can enjoy your coffee al fresco.
What inspires you?
I think living in this area is the main inspiration for anything, really. I live in a little harbour village called Porthgain and so everything I’ve ever been involved with has been centred around tourism and encouraging people to the area, and I think that’s always come into everything else that I’ve done.
When I came to Melin Tregwynt ten years ago, it was all quite small and basic with the potential to encourage everybody to come and see the surroundings we’ve got here. Facilitating other people to come and see the area we’re in and appreciate the coastline is always something that I’ve done.
So you’ve worked for Melin Tregwynt for ten years, and the cafe has been here for six. What part did you play in the opening of the cafe?
The cafe as it stands now has been open for six years. Before that, we had a little tiny cafe that seated sixteen people. We managed to have a proper coffee machine in there, and I think possibly we still got coffee from Coaltown right at the beginning as well. We had four or six tables out here, so at the most we could seat 30 – 40 people at a real push. Over the years we started realising there was massive potential to be able to do something, so bit by bit we added a lot more tables outside, put up a marquee and tried that for a bit, and realised from that we could get a lot more interest in the cafe as well.
There’d been plans in place for years and there are bigger plans now about extending right out, but it’s just about getting the finance. We started getting a lot more footfall and the shop improved a bit with more people coming in, which is when we built the new cafe. We’ve realised this year it isn’t quite big enough! The coffee counter’s moved again, and every year we have to add something on or try to modify. We’re going to make do with what we’ve got at the minute.
I was involved in the process from the beginning, planning what we could do with the constraints of what we had. We’re always trying to make the most of every centimetre. Wherever you can fit something, it goes there.
Well it all looks really beautiful with the planters; it all feels very congruent with the natural, rural environment.
Yes definitely. We do improvements all the time but we don’t want to go too crazy and pile tables in. Through the whole of covid, people came here and felt really safe because we don’t jam people together. In the cafe we could certainly fit three more tables in, but you don’t want people feeling like you’ve crammed people in for the sake of it, to get bums on seats. Whereas here, we’re lucky enough that people can sit separately, and they come because they feel quite safe. We get so many people that come back and back again. With covid we didn’t see some people for a couple of years and now they’re back twice a year again. It’s so nice, we saw people in May and they’re back again now. We do well with regular trade and people coming back and forth.
What do you love the most about what you do?
Every day is so different. You come into work in the morning and it could be that something’s gone pear shaped and you need to sort it out, or there’s massive cruise ships turning up in Fishguard and 72 people wanting to come and visit at the same time. I think it’s just the fact everything can be different every day.
Also, working with the product is just a nice, easy sell. It sells itself, in a way, you’re just there to facilitate passing on a really nice product to the customers. I think people do really value what goes into it from start to finish, and the whole process of how it’s made. It’s such a unique product.
What’s your favourite thing about the area?
Having been born and bred here, I’m lucky enough that where I work is just down from where I live, with both areas being right on the coast. I think that’s one of the most important things to me, being close to the coast.
Describe your relationship with coffee in three words.
An occasional treat!
What’s your go-to coffee order?
I just go for a latte, when I have it.
Why did you choose Coaltown?
We’d been to a local buyer/supplier event to have a look and see what was there. We met Scott and Gordon, tried the coffee, brought back some samples and it went down really well amongst the staff. Once we started using it with the customers they started asking if they could buy it retail, and it went from there.
I think everything about the company aligns really well with Melin Tregwynt as a brand. We’ve got really similar ideas in terms of ethics and how things are done and sourced, so Coaltown is just really nice to work with.
What are you most excited about right now?
I think going forward I’m most excited about the EOT, and just really taking more responsibility on. I’m looking forward to spending a few months with employee engagement and things like that, really bringing the company forward. So that’s the most exciting bit at the minute, how we’re going to change and evolve.
Thanks so much to Louise for chatting with us!
We really recommend taking the trip to visit Melin Tregwynt at their beautiful mill, where you can find their cafe and homewares shop. If you're interested in learning more about the workings of the mill, watch this space...
If you’re considering joining the Coaltown family, you can put in a wholesale enquiry here.