Iconic Merthyr Tydfil Deli returns to the High Street after 40 years

Johnsons’ Delicatessen is back in business — complete with delicious events programme for foodies

Founded by Jim and Joan Johnson in 1982, Johnsons’ Delicatessen was once a haven of Italian meat, cheese and sweet-treats in Merthyr Tydfil — operating for more than a decade.

Now, nearly 40 years later, the much-loved local venue has re-opened its doors in the town centre — with thanks to the original owners’ granddaughter, Jessica Howells, who ‘grew up’ on the original shop floor.

Open as of Saturday 04 December, the deli’s grand return has been made possible by an investment from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and its Meanwhile scheme — which supports new enterprises to open in vacant town centre buildings. Plus, additional funding was received from the Targeted Regeneration Investment programme (TRI) from Welsh Government.

The deli offers a sumptuous range of ready-to-eat foods — from Italian-style meats and cheese to coffee, pastries, hot meals and freshly baked bread, all inspired by the offering of the original shop.

Pairing the old with the new, the deli will also host a series of unique events for food-lovers, including everything from indulgent sample evenings to foodie masterclasses — beginning with a coffee tasting and barista tutorial led by Big Dog Coffee, from Ebbw Vale on Wednesday 29 December. Keep an eye on the deli’s Facebook page for more information on the event, coming soon.

All ingredients and food on offer at the deli have been locally sourced — with coffee by the aforementioned Big Dog Coffee, cheeses from Caws Cenarth, eggs from Trecastle Eggs in Brecon and freshly baked bread from much-loved artisan baker, Alex Gooch.

The original deli was inspired by the sumptuous delicatessens of northern Italy, which Jim Johnson discovered during a European cycling tour in 1954. After being made redundant later in life, Mr. Johnson decided to take the plunge on a new business — opening the original Johnsons’ Deli in 1982, with his wife, Joan, as the head chef.

The deli and its Italian-style offering quickly grew in popularity, no doubt aided by the large numbers of people with Italian origins living in Merthyr Tydfil and the wider Valleys. With hundreds of happy customers served to date, it’s hoped that the same sense of excitement will be enjoyed at the new Johnsons’ Delicatessen.

The owner, Jessica Howells, said: “The original Johnsons’ Deli is such an important part of my family’s history — and I like to think that it’s an important part of Merthyr’s history too. Some of my earliest memories were made at my grandparent’s shop and I love the idea that my 3-year-old son will enjoy a similar experience.

“My main aspiration with the deli is to offer high-quality produce for local people to enjoy, all while supporting local suppliers and helping to further ignite a sense of community in the town centre. With thanks to funding from the Council and expert advice from my grandfather, this dream is slowly turning into a reality and I’m so excited to see what the future holds.

“From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank the people of Merthyr Tydfil for their support so far — I can’t wait to welcome you all for a coffee and a Welsh cake very soon!”

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transformation and Commercialisation, Cllr Geraint Thomas, said: “As we stride towards the end of 2021 and look ahead to a brighter 2022, it’s wonderful to see yet another business opening in Merthyr Tydfil — especially one linked so intrinsically to the history of the town. I’m sure that Jessica and the team will be warmly welcomed by those who do and don’t remember the original deli, with thanks to the town’s thriving foodie population.

Johnsons’ Delicatessen is the latest in a long line of businesses to benefit from the Council’s Meanwhile Scheme in 2021 — and I’m thrilled to say that there’s even more in store for the town centre in 2022.

“It’s all part of the council’s wider masterplan for the town — which aims to transform Merthyr Tydfil into the tourism capital of the Valleys by 2035.”