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40th anniversary sees Hennighan’s open second shop

Hennighan’s Top Shop in Machynlleth, Powys, is throwing a double celebration this year as it marks its 40th anniversary and gets set to open a new fish and chip shop in the town.

The chippy, which was first opened in 1982 by Richard and Janet Hennighan, is now run by son David, wife Eleanor and their three daughters.

David has bought Dick’s Diner, located just 500 yards away, from his sister-in-law and is carrying out a full refurbishment ready for a May launch under the name Hennighan’s.

It will serve the same menu as Hennighan’s Top Shop of fish, chips, sausages, burgers, pies and pasties but will offer the option to eat in with a 28-seater restaurant. The addition of an alcohol licence will mean customers can enjoy a glass of wine, prosecco or beer with their meal.

The move gives Hennighan’s a presence in the centre of town as well as at the top.

David comments: “I really didn’t want someone else to take over what has been a family business, especially with its location and having the restaurant. It also gives us the chance to run a restaurant as Top Shop is just a takeaway. I’ve never run a restaurant so I’m a bit nervous but I’m also looking forward to it.”

Like many takeaways during lockdown, Top Shop had to adapt its business, moving to online ordering and serving customers from the door. It hasn’t had a customer in the shop since March 2020 and its online orders regularly sell out, leaving some customers disappointed. Daughter Jemma hopes opening the restaurant will provide some normality for customers.

She says: “Opening a new shop will be ideal in terms of customers that don’t want to order online or who want to sit down. I think we’ll gain a lot of new customers but also we’ll see a lot of old customers come back as well.”

Jemma also hopes Hennighan’s will give families a much-needed place to eat out, adding: ”In our town, you either have a pub or a bistro and neither you would take children into. We’ve recently lost the leisure centre cafe which used to cater for a lot of kids parties so our plan is to get into that family market.

“It will purely be a fish and chip restaurant. We don’t want to diversify into something we don’t know. We just want to do really good quality fish and chips.”

The family has also bought the toy shop next door to the restaurant, which they reopened in August 2021 as an ice cream parlour. Linked in the back with the same kitchen, the ice cream shop will supply desserts for the new restaurant.

Jemma adds: “It has bought a lot of new trade into town, we’ve not had an ice cream shop here for about 15-18 years. We caught the end of the summer season, it was different and it was challenging. We had one freezer space for ice cream and quickly bought another in the first week!”

On celebrating 40 years and opening a new restaurant, David says: “ I didn’t expect either to be honest! 40 years is a long time in one trade and in one business but I still enjoy it.

"What I do miss is customers coming into the shop, so I’m looking forward to opening the restaurant and having some banter with the customers again.

“The local community really want us to open, especially the way things are at the moment at Top Shop as our online order slots often sell out so some can’t get food with us. Our local strangers as we like to call them, those with caravans and who return year-on-year, they will be glad to see the restaurant back open too.”

When David’s parents first opened Hennighan’s Top Shop 40 years ago, fish and chips cost just £1. David remarks: “Chips were 25p and fish was 75p but the fish then was a 4oz fish, whereas now it’s about 6-7oz.”

Talking of other developments, David adds: “The whole industry has undergone massive changes. The biggest one is online. I never thought when I started in this business that I would be selling more fish and chips online than through the door!

“But it’s other things too. Health and hygiene regulations have come on so much, ranges have become more modernised.

“The best thing though is that even after 40 years you can still learn from other people coming into the trade. I would never have thought of doing online.

“It’s a good industry and there are some great people always willing to help, give you a nudge or give you a call. I still love it.”

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