On December 10th 1907, planning permission was given for a ‘warehouse situated on Bridge Street and Quay’. On its completion in May 1909 the Carmarthen Journal enthused over the ‘magnificent new structure of Towy Works…’an eighth wonder of the world’. Its architect, George Morgan of King Street, designer of the English Baptist Chapel, Pentreporth School and the School of Art, had made maximum use of the awkwardly shaped site, formerly a coal depot. The glorious riverside building was of brick, cement rendered and adorned with three parallel lines of large blue enamel plaques advertising the firm’s expertise and products. The roof was ornamented with a rail and filials cast at the local foundry. Rising to three storeys, the building occupied a strategic position, added to the bustle of the still thriving quay and became a landmark for road users and passengers using the town’s new railway station. High over the door was the Towy Works trademark, with the legend ‘ESTABLISHED 1795’.
Readers may be surprised by this date – it refers to the founding of the original ironmonger’s shop later incorporated into the works and makes it the oldest surviving business in Carmarthen. During the 200 years of its existence, it has passed through the hands of only five families: John David, wife and son; John James Morris and his wife; James Davies; J T M Harries and Tom McCall, his son and his three grandsons.
And so to the present day - Lots of things have changed since the Towy Works started trading in 1795 but some things never change. Those days when a shop attendant would actually talk to you and advice you on your purchase may seem long gone but we all lament its passing. Towy Works director Nigel McCall is quite clear why the business has survived the ups and downs of fashion. ‘Customer service never goes out of date. Return business is our mainstay and if we did not look after our customers, they would not have looked after us after all these years. Although Towy Works is run in the ‘Hardware Store’ tradition of personal contact, we are constantly updating and reviewing our range of services’. Thankfully the reviews and updating never change that feeling you get when you walk through the door that this is a ‘solid’ firm that knows how to help you. Staffing is important and the firm seems to attract loyalty. The last person we took on was in 1988 (At time of publication) and he is still with us’ Nigel said. ‘Staff with a deep knowledge of the trade is vital if we are to remain more than cooperative. Very often we find ourselves instructing customers on how to do the job’. Towy Works have recently bought the old Jonwyn Building on the Quay to give greater car parking for customers. The greater appeal however is in the saying that has slipped into the local language: ‘If you can’t get it at Towy, you can’t get it’. NBG Partner since 01.03.21