My local Sainsbury’s has a café with free WiFi and large windows onto the world going past on the A470 slip roads outside. It also has excellent blinds, which come into their own in the late afternoon. Pleasingly it has a pointy, nautical-style outdoor sitting area, with a nice view of the back of Halfords. To be fair you also get to see a pleasant vista of the bowl of green hillsides in which Pontypridd sits.
It has that corrugated metal ceiling and exposed duct-work thing going on, and if you sit at the wrong table, you get a stiff neck from the chilling air conditioning unit. It is what we experts call Quite Large, and also has acoustics such that the background hubbub is on the noisy side.
I tried a new route via the park today, which was most pleasant, and 3.62 km well spent. I also explored a hidden stretch of the long lost Glamorganshire Canal, which runs along the back of the store. It is being painstakingly restored by local volunteers, but it seems a shame that Sainsbury’s couldn’t have funded the whole project when they built the store. They and we could have had a beautiful canal-side walk and rescued an important piece of local heritage in one fell swoop.
The store stands on the site of the world famous Brown Lenox chain-making works, and a frieze in the lobby alludes to its upcoming two hundredth anniversary in 2018. Strictly speaking the factory was established in 1816, but we won’t quibble too much. In their heyday they made anchors and chains for the British Navy, then at the peak of its powers, and fitted out the world’s greatest ocean-going liners at their golden zenith. Speaking of ocean-going liners, the anchor and chain of the Titanic were made to a design patented by Brown Lenox, but not actually built at the Pontypridd factory. In any case, it wasn’t exactly the anchor that was the problem for the Titanic.
Today I’m rooting for the slightly healthy option, as I am wont to do. I go for a bacon and egg granary roll, regular Americano, and a by Sainsbury’s pineapple, banana and coconut smoothie. All is as it should be in brunch world. Bacon crispy, egg just slightly crozzled, yet runny, coffee which wakes me up, and a smoothie that’s probably several of my five a day.
I would like to see some sort of Brown Lenox themed items on the menu for the anniversary. A Brown Lenox Chain of Sausages, some Anchor Butter fruit scones and a Titanic Smoothie would all go down well. I’ve thought for a while that Sainsbury’s could benefit from a virtual suggestion box. Customers may have helpful ideas which might improve or add individual character to their stores.
Another dimension which adds local colour to the Pontypridd Sainsbury’s café is the frequent presence of members of the Ponty Born And Bred Facebook group. Members of said group have recently acquired badges, to facilitate identification, when they hold their Friday meetings.
There are issues with Sainsbury’s café, issues which probably impact all supermarket cafés. One which myself and my companion like to ponder is how do they dust all the ceiling duct-work and high up windows. Another is the occasional tendency to reach peak queue all of a sudden, and then compound the situation by not having a member of staff on coffee making duties.
The cousins Samuel Brown, and Samuel Lenox could never have imagined the amazing success which their joint enterprise would bring. Nor could they have foreseen the changes which the site of their factory would undergo during the two hundred years after its founding. The factory closed at the turn of the millennium, by which time it was a pale shadow of its former self, its glory days long gone. Little could the two Samuels have guessed the future. That a Sainsbury’s café would one day serve up bacon baps, fruit smoothies and coffee named for a continent barely discovered, where once their iron was forged.