Over the last year, many businesses in Swansea have been forced to finish trading, but in one street three new businesses have opened and there are more coming.
It’s a street which has certainty had its fair share of ups and downs. High Street was the most crime-ridden area in Swansea in 2019, but it was also shortlisted as one of the best high streets in the UK in 2019. That was just months after it was dubbed by a national newspaper as possibly “one of the worst” in the country.
Since then a lot has changed and it only takes a quick stroll to see how radically it is changing. Cranes, scaffolding and men in fluorescent jackets can always be spotted these days as multi-million pound developments take shape.
Once the main shopping district in Swansea city centre, High Street these days is made up of independent retailers, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets and world food supermarkets, along with creative arts spaces. You can find out more about the changes here.
In the last six months, confectionery shop Mazza Treatz , The Foodie Room Bakery and dessert parlour Imperial Desserts have all opened up there.
Muz Ahmad, 30, and Safyan Shahid, 29, are behind Mazza Treatz, which has enjoyed a flurry of business from people looking for the comforts of a sugar rush since opening in January. The firm’s unusual sweets, snacks and chocolate, including hard-to-find treats that often go viral on TikTok, are proving to be a hit. People are even queuing up to an hour on some days to get their hands on them.
“We wanted to do something different and work on a new project together. Mazza is a slang term for madness as well as something that is really good, so it sums up the design of the shop and the stuff we sell here,” Muz said.
The High Street sweet shop is kitted out in a Willy-Wonka style, with eccentric feature walls and a range of iconic brand characters.
Safyan said: “We wanted everything to have a fun and exciting twist but to be family friendly.”
Muz added: “Sometimes we’re here until two o’clock in the morning making up sweet bags or restocking the shelves. Other times we’re out at the crack of dawn travelling up and down the country getting new stock. It is hard work to set up and run a shop during a pandemic, but we couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved. We never expected the reaction we’ve had from customers.”
When asked about High Street and whether or not the street deserved the criticism it’s had in the past, Safyan admitted that it’s for a reason.
“I’ve worked on High Street and I’ve seen first hand leaving shifts at 1am what type of people approach you. I get why people have the stigmatism about it all. We still see the characters, I just feel for some students, maybe quite vulnerable, might come from a place where they don’t have to experience these types of things, and for them it might be a bit frightening. We are used to it.”
The regeneration of High Street is what brought the pair here.
Muz said: “We thought we would go now, try it and see how it goes. The street is up and coming. Businesses bring more footfall and we buy from everyone around here.
“High Street is improving. Since we have been here, we have noticed improvements, you see PCSOs walking up the street and there are a lot of police cars.”
And how has it been opening in a pandemic?
“Overwhelming is one word to sum it up. From the second week on we were here 16-18 hours a day, it was ridiculous. We didn’t expect queues, people were queuing up to an hour on some days,” Muz added.
Adam Holding opened The Foodie Room Bakery in September 2020. He’s also been busy getting his new tapas bar ready which is due to open next door in a few weeks – with an adult ball pit inside.
Before opening in Swansea, he had a base in Llanelli in an industrial estate and throughout the first lockdown he was delivering around Swansea, Llanelli and Ammanford before deciding to open a shop.
“It’s been really good since we have opened. This last lockdown has been quieter on the street, everything is going alright business-wise, it was worth opening. We have pretty much kept it the same all the way through, one person comes into the doors to collect at any one time. Opening the bakery was an added extra but it took off and we kept on going,” the 28-year-old said.
Adam said that he is all for new businesses in the area.
“I think it’s the best move I’ve done so far business-wise, because it’s a lot busier than Llanelli, a lot more people around the city, even with lockdown, the streets have been quiet but there’s still a little bit of footfall. The new development of the student accommodation, we have got maybe 1,500 potential students.
“High Street is up and coming with new businesses. The more good things we can bring to the street will bring a good tidy crowd of people.”.