I was born in Mary Street in the heart of the city, back in the day! My mam and dad owned a pub in Mary Street and we lived above it. At that time Wolfe Tone Street was full of tenement buildings and probably a couple of thousand people living in them. A football game in the evening might be 50 or 60 a side and might continue until 100 goals were scored depending on how fast they were going in You might not think it but cricket was another popular game.
Parents of that time had it hard and subsequently worked hard for themselves and their families, with very few holidays, if any. The city was a different place then. It was full of community and characters. It wasn’t worth having airs and graces!
Tell me about your business
In 1974 my parents and I set up a new company and after myself and Kerry got married in’82 she also became part of the company business. In 1997 my parents retired and we changed direction. We have been living in Blackrock since 1982 and to have something nearer home fitted well.
We set up a Centra store in the heart of the village. Before deciding which building best suited us we would sit in our car and count people at various times of the day to take note of the patterns of movement. Ours’ is a store which has changed three times in its layout and style as the consumer demands. Back in the late 90’s Blackrock had the highest density of office space outside the city centre. Our two sons Blaise and Desmond are now part of the family business. So we are now into the third generation and with the birth of Harry and Josh, maybe the fourth. Who knows?
What important lessons have you learned since starting your business?
The most important lessons we have learned since going into business – you need to be able to communicate and most of all be able to listen. A staff member once asked me ‘How in God’s name can you say Good Morning so many times a day?’ My answer was quite simple – ‘When I said Good Morning to John I said it to him for the first time’ So every customer meeting is quite unique and they are made to feel like they are the only customer in the world at that moment. Then we start afresh with the next customer.
So, the best service you can give and don’t insult your customers with pricing – be fair. Being local is a big advantage – very hard to beat.
Which business person (at home or abroad) do you most admire and why?
Most grocers anywhere would admire Fergal Quinn. His name, his style, it gets mentioned everywhere and it all stemmed from him walking the aisles in his stores – as I said previously ‘communication’
Why did you join the BBN?
Ten years ago we had an organisation called The Unique Blackrock Traders. We had a committee of eight but three did all the work. I lost heart when the other two workers left the area.
You ask me why I joined the BBN – I was probably co-opted without knowing it!! No really Tom approached myself and Kerry and you know his enthusiasm won me over. The BBN is what it is today because of Tom Feeney.
You all know the record to date and truly this organisation has so many strings to it’s bow it cannot but succeed.