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10-Year Celebration of the Holyhead Empty Shops Initiative!

10 years ago, Môn CF, called Plas Cybi at the time, embarked on an initiative to regenerate the high street of Holyhead.

If you’re from Holyhead, you’ll remember what things were like at the time. It was a tale of shuttered shops and to-let signs. Things didn’t look great. Major retailers had long left the town centre, moving to the new out-of-town retail park.

It was clear something was needed to combat the decline in the town centre.

Nashka Ealand - Owner of Nashka's Barbers
Nashka Ealand - Owner of Nashka's Barbers

The Holyhead Empty Shops Initiative - A first for the area!

A new Communities First project was launched, called The Holyhead Empty Shops Initiative. Its goal was to find low-cost solutions to regenerate the town centre.

Many of the empty shops weren't owned by people in the community. Meaning the owners lacked the local understanding needed to make real change.

To bring prosperity back to the area, more opportunities need to be created. The community needs places where local people can create their own enterprises.

Plas Cybi worked with the landlords and the agents of the empty shops, to reduce rents and put properties within reach for local business owners.

The initiative was also able to acquire some derelict premises. Refurbishment works went ahead to make them suitable for modern business use.

Alun Roberts, who leads Môn CF’s property development projects, said the makeovers were essential. They needed to be affordable and quick so they could be the new home to thriving young businesses.

One of those businesses was owned by Nashka Ealand. Who through the project, opened Nashka’s Barber Shop on London Road.

We caught up with Nashka, who’s also celebrating her 10-year business anniversary, to see how her business is doing and what her plans are for the future.

Q1. Could you tell us a little about you and your business?

I’m Nashka Ealand, and I own my own barbershop in Holyhead. We're on London Road and we’ve been here 10 years this week (24th June 2023).

We specialise in men’s haircuts and shaves, we also offer other services like piercing.

I started the business on my own a little over 10 years ago. I was doing mobile appointments at first, but I always knew I wanted a place of my own.

The business took off a lot quicker than I’d thought, things were going well and moving very fast. After about six months I felt like I was ready to take the next step. That’s when Caroline joined me, and she’s been working with me for 9 and a half years now.

Over the years we’ve built a great relationship with our customers, and we have a loyal clientele. Most of our customers have been with us from the very beginning.

We've built a kind of community here which is important to me.

People come to us for more than a regular haircut. They come to see us, get to have a joke and a laugh, and have a chat, and we're always here to lift their spirits.

We're known for that now, and we've always put the clients first since the very beginning.

Get a fresh trim at Nashkas

Q2. You’ve been going now for almost 10 years and running a business can be a huge challenge. Could you tell us about some of the ups and downs?

Well, Covid was scary for everybody wasn’t it? I remember right at the very beginning of lockdown when we thought it’d only be a few weeks. We thought it’d be all ok and that we’d be back to normal in no time.

But it was a lot longer than that, and our industry took a hit. You couldn’t be within 2 metres of people, and all the new rules we had to follow made it very hard to keep going. We’re used to seeing people here, and that changed.

I learned a lot from it though. It taught me to enjoy my own company. It’s helped me slow down and appreciate the things I’ve got, like my family and friends.

About 6 months before lockdown the business was getting so busy that I had to bring in some changes. It was frustrating to me that my regulars could walk in and could be waiting a long time for a haircut. Usually, because they hadn’t booked ahead.

No one minded, but it wasn’t the experience I wanted people to have when they came to my shop. I knew it was time to make some changes.

I brought in our online booking system and spent time helping my clients get used to using it. It took a few months, but everyone was happy to make the change.

Because of this, we were ahead of the game when lockdowns eased. As soon as we could open again, we were full. All my regulars could already book in and we were one of the first to provide that option.

It’s been so successful. I’ve even had people tell me they’ve booked their next haircut with us when they’ve been abroad on holiday!

Q3. You've mentioned how you've built a community around your business, could you tell us more about that?

Yes, definitely!

Giving my clients the best experience possible is so important to me.

When we were in lockdown I saw people were trying to cut their own hair. Posts all over social media of people having a go and making a little bit of a mess of it.

When you’re in our business you know how important people's hair is to them. Even though we couldn’t do it for them, we could at least help them do it from home.

I started posting videos on social media with tips and guides to help people cut their own hair from home. It’s a skill in itself and can be quite daunting the first time you do it. I thought if we can’t do it, we’ll help you do the best job you can by yourself.

We also posted videos about how appointments were going to be once lockdown lifted. A lot of our clients bring their children in to see us. We didn’t want them to fear us in the masks and visors.

We posted a few videos to show how the process looked, and to help make them as comfortable as we could.

We got a lot of good feedback from people for doing this, which was very rewarding.

Q4. Could you tell us about some of your plans for the future of the business?

We want to keep doing what we’re doing and grow a little along the way.

We’ve got Alyshea with us now, who’s helped grow the team, she’ll have been with us two years this year. The more staff we get the more we grow.

It’s difficult for established businesses sometimes. A lot of the funding that comes available is there to help you start out. But I’d like there to be more to help an existing employer get to the next level.

I’m good with money so I’ve never had to rely on loans to grow the business, I save, or I do it myself. I’m so proud of the growth we’ve had so far.

The plan, for now, is to keep maintaining our success and keep growing. I’ve got ideas for what’s next, but I don’t want to give them out yet. Watch this space!

Q5. Could you tell us about the work you've done with Môn CF?

It was back when I’d first started out so over 10 years ago. I always knew I wanted a place of my own and I’d heard of the work Môn CF was doing.

You were still Plas Cybi at the time, which is when I met Alun, and he was happy to help.

I spoke to him and said I’d love to have a shop, out of town, on London Road.

At first, he said there was no chance, the shops on this road come up so rarely, and when they do they get snapped up quickly.

He said I’d be waiting years, but I was happy to wait.

Less than six months later I get a phone call. It's Alun, and he said I wouldn’t believe it but we’ve got a property on London Road and we’re going to renovate it.

I met him at the property, and we got our heads together to work out a floor plan and how much space I’d need. The premises itself was split into two, with my shop here, and another shop available next door.

I had a lot of control over the layout of the space itself. I chose where my electric points were and design the space to suit my needs.

I’m into my cars, and they even helped me get some unique seating areas using bucket seats from a Peugeot. We used reclaimed scaffolding boards to build all my shelving. And I’ve used a local welding business to make all my cabinets and tables.

They gave me full control over how I decorate in here, and I’ve changed it up a few times in the years since. I like to keep it quiet when I’m planning a big change though. So, everyone’s surprised when they come in and the shops changed!

Seeing what Môn CF are doing now with the properties they’ve refurbished I can see my shop was the baby for that project. They helped me so much and it’s great to see that they’re doing the same for other businesses in the area.

Renovation to Denbigh House on London Road Holyhead
The property on London Road before and after renovations took place

Q6. One more, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting their own business, what would it be?

Oh, of course!

I’ve said it to people before, but the main thing is to keep going. Believe in yourself and it’ll work out.

It’s a lot of work running your own business, and you’ll see some people fail, but most get right back up and try again. Never give up.

Follow your dream and it will work. When the time is right it’ll work itself out for you.

Bonus - Here's a throwback to what was happening at the time:

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