TOWN IS OPEN FOR IRONMAN
IN 2011 father-of-four Matthew Evans, 44, decided to bring the endurance triathlon Ironman to Tenby. With its mammoth 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112-mile cycle rounded off with a full marathon it was going to mean a lot of upheaval for the area. Roads would be closing and many of the streets in the town would be blocked off.
“Before the first one there was a lot of planning to get the town to sign up to the idea,” said Matthew.
“It was a massive culture change for Tenby and Pembrokeshire, there was 74 miles of roads to close for the bike course and people weren’t used to that.
“This is a tourism town and they were scared. We spent nearly every single night of that summer in schools, pubs and church halls just explaining what the concept was and saying ‘give us a year, let it run and you will understand’.
“We educated a lot of businesses on what was coming.
“We are local to the area and have to live here 365 days a year – we had to get it right.
“We had to tell hotel owners that if they were going to take athletes to then expect their bikes to be coming into their rooms and all their gear.
“There was huge pushback initially. You felt like Shrek – everywhere you go people were chasing you with pitchforks.”
When race day came along the people of the town exceed all expectations. Now seven years later many of the businesses owe their very livelihoods to the boost the event gives.
Winter is a tough time for all self-employed people in any seaside town but none find it harder than new businesses.
They often haven’t been able to fatten up as much as the more established firms and those first few years are the acid test for the projects they have sunk their hearts into.
If you head down Tenby’s charming Upper Frog Street you will find three of these business down a narrow side lane pressed against the medieval walls. They are so close together you can stand on one spot and knock on all their windows.
For these entrepreneurs, the Ironman and long course are essential for getting the fledgling firms on their feet.
Just two years ago James Beavan and his friend Rob Faulkner quit the rat race manag- ing in corporate pubs and did what every man and his best friend have drunkenly dreamed of doing – opening their own brewery.
Tenby Brewing Company is now in the process of upgrading its facilities using the old kit from Tiny Rebel. On top of this it has opened its own craft brewery bar “Sandbar”. According to James, the Ironman is an enormous draw.
He said: “It has massively positive impact through takings and also the reputation of the town. It draws attention to us on the map. We’re two hours from Cardiff and it’s amazing to have an international audience come to Tenby achievement.
“I know people who have just come for the Ironman and then have been bringing their families every summer after because they loved the town. It’s a compound positive effect.”
Next to the Sandbar is Indie Burger which has been run by Josh Bevan and his cousin for just over a year. He outlined how the triathlon provides an end-of-season boost.
He said: “Me and my cousin own it, we discussed it back in 2009 and then last year he came to me and said ‘now or never’.
“I was working in the solar industry that to take on this athletic comple completely died because the feedfeed-in tariffs went, so I tho thought I should jump be beforee I was pushed.
“Winter is a tough t time for everyone in T Tenby but we do have a good local following. That is the key to surviving. Well that and h having one hell of s summer!
“We decided our first wwi winter to just stay open likee like we normally do and see howh it goes. “We always wanted to do this intently because the increasing population over the summer is so great. I got told it was an 800% increase but whether that’s true or not I don’t know.
“I do notice a difference in people around the Ironman. In the run-up it is all the people supporting them and the night after all the athletes come in so they can gorge on burgers after behaving so long!”
For 30-year-old Laura Shorten, owner of The Fuchsia Caffe, this the first time she will be open during the Ironman in her new business.
“The business has been going months,” she said.
“We don’t really know what we should do. I have managed places closer to the start but I’m not sure what to do with this one.
“It was because of the Ironman that loads of other sporting events have sprung up around the town. We seem to have a lot more fit people around! We get a lots of cyclists.
“The buzz is fantastic – my brother ran in it a few years ago and arrived back about 10 o’clock at night.”
Speaking about previous years, she said: “Whether you were busy on the day depends where you are. When I was managing somewhere on North Beach we would make most of our money by 10 o’clock in the morning and that would be better than any day we had all summer.
“I don’t know what it is like where we are now yet but people are definitely after breakfast as soon as the swim is finished. We are hoping to take advantage of that. We do a proper Welsh breakfast with laver cake.” for five