A chocaholic café owner has been shortlisted for a top award for helping to safeguard a town centre.
Mark Young, who runs Denbigh Chocolate Shop, in Denbigh, with his wife Mary, has been nominated for a High Street Heroes award in the food and drink category.
The awards are part of the Welsh Government’s Support Your High Street campaign, which showcases the vast range of shops and services available on Wales’ diverse high streets and town centres.
Mark and Mary opened Denbigh Chocolate Shop on World Chocolate Day in 2009, combining their love of coffee and chocolate.
Located in the centre of Denbigh in a 14th century building, the shop is now considered to be a local treasure and attracts the attention of many visiting tourists.
Since opening its doors, the business has flourished and the pair have expanded their services to host parties, events and have plans to delve into the specialist cakes market in the near future.
Over the past six years, Mark has become a prominent figure within the Denbigh community, and has raised more than £50,000 for local charities by holding various coffee mornings, film nights and tasting evenings. He is also committed to hiring local part-time students to work in the shop.
Mark employs bilingual staff to ensure his customers feel as welcome as possible during their visit and ensures at least half of their high quality coffee and chocolate is made in Wales, as he believes it is vital to support other Welsh suppliers and businesses.
Mark’s involvement doesn’t stop there – he is also town councillor and keeps actively involved with all local concerns.
The couple’s aim is to build a strong family business that they can pass onto their daughter, with the hope that the business will be an important part of the town for many generations to come.
Mark said: “I’m absolutely amazed at the support shown by the local community and feel very honoured that they have taken the time to vote for our small shop.
“When we moved to Denbigh, we were touched by the warm welcome we received from the local community and their support has continued to grow ever since.
“Being Denbigh’s town councillor enables me to keep in the heart of the community and keep up-to-date with all the developments. I feel the most important thing about running a business is giving back to the community you’re serving as much as possible.
“This is the inspiration behind my extensive charity work and the idea behind the ‘Suspended Coffee Scheme’ I set up within the shop.
“The idea is that one person will buy two coffees and one is held for someone in need. We keep in regular contact with the local food bank and often use the fund to top up the bank when they need the money. I believe that it is my involvement in the community that is key to the business’s success.
“We will be giving away free chocolate samples to our customers every day during Support Your High street week to thank the people who have shown us so much.”
People have also been encouraged to nominate their overall High Street Hero – an individual deserving recognition for their outstanding contribution to their local high street and community.
The Welsh Government’s Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths AM, launched this year’s campaign and the new awards.
She said: “High streets are the heart of our local communities. They offer access to vital services, support our economy and provide opportunities for people to come together to socialise.
“Our High Street Heroes awards recognise the hard work and dedication of people and businesses up and down the country which are providing high-quality services and boosting their local communities.
“We want to celebrate the achievements of local traders, like the Denbigh Chocolate Shop, which make an outstanding contribution to their town centres.”