A brand new retail site is set to open next month, with many residents looking forward to the addition of a drive-through Greggs and McDonalds restaurant.
The site, based in Brynmawr, Wales, has seen a variety of regeneration projects over the past two decades with an Asda supermarket, a Home Bargains, and more recently a Costa Coffee being built on the land.
However, there is one man who is not as excited about these developments. Carl George is a burger van owner who has been based at the entrance of the retail park for almost 20 years now and states that he feels threatened by the location of the new McDonald’s joint that has been built around him over the last few weeks.
Wales Online reports that when the restaurant opens in March, Carl will find himself just mere feet away from the drive-through windows of the large fast food restaurant – a fact which he fears could have a significant impact on his business.
As you head towards the construction site, it has been noticeable in recent weeks that Carl’s small gray van on the side of the road is being dwarfed in comparison to its neighbour.
But Carl, 57, who sells thousands of pounds worth of food every month, said despite the increase in competition that is soon to come he doesn’t plan on moving from the small square of land he owns any time soon.
He said: “I’ve lived in Brynmawr my entire life and have always worked in food and catering businesses because it’s what I love to do. I don’t know how to do anything else to be honest with you and for me this van really is my livelihood and the way I support my family.
“I bought the van for £10,000 about 18 years ago and set myself up here on this corner even before the Adsa was built and I have worked hard to make myself an established business in that time.
“We’re busy every day with a lot of local tradesmen and service people but we also get a large amount of people coming for a bite to eat after they’ve been to the shops as well. It’s been amazing and we have some brilliant customers so to think of losing that trade now is very worrying for me and my family.
“When it opens next month I will be only a few feet away from the drive-through though I’m sure if they wanted to they could have situated it slightly differently to account for me being here.
“Luckily I own this small corner of land on a long-term lease so there’s no way they can make me move from my spot. At the moment I constantly have people coming over and asking what I’m going to do when it opens, because they see how it looks with me right next-door, but my answer has always remained the same.
Selling a range of burgers and hot dogs, as well as daily specials such as pork rolls, Carl says he has been very content on his small van over the years and he hopes that after such a long stint in the Brynmawr area his customers will continue using hisservices.
As a steady stream of customers comes and goes from the van Carl seems in a good spirits about the task ahead of him though there is a worry beneath the surface that is clear to see.
“It’s going to be a massive competition for us to have a giant food chain like this open up so close and of course I am feeling the pressure of going up against them because I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said .
“Whether or not it was built this way on purpose I really don’t know but either way nobody has ever spoken to me about the construction. Obviously you want to see new things being built but at the same time what they have done with this McDonald’s has been ridiculous and I really do feel threatened by it now.
“I just hope people keep coming here so I can continue to make a living and doing what I love to do. At my age I’m too old to do anything else now so this is incredibly important to me and my family and could have a big impact on our lives.
“I’m just thankful that I do have so many loyal customers and the support I’ve had from the people of the town and even around the borough has meant a lot. I guess we’ll just have to keep going and see what it happens now but of course it is a worrying time.”
Councilors Wayne Hodgins and John Hill of Brynmawr have both expressed their support for Carl and say they hope the situation with the new development can become one that benefits all parties based on the site.
Cllr Hodgins said: “Carl has been in that spot for a number of years now so we definitely want to give him any support we can moving forward and we are hopeful that he can continue to make his business a success on that site.
“There are other places like this across Wales where these sort of businesses do co-exist and with it being a slightly different market for himself and McDonald’s it could be good for everyone in the long run.”
A McDonald’s spokesman said: “Our new restaurant in Brynmawr will bring significant investment to the area and create at least 65 jobs for local people. We are proud of the positive role we play in the communities we serve and look forward to welcoming customers when we open in early spring.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.