A CLOSE SHAVE John Kelly of Kelly’s Barbers, Castlebar is looking forward to having customers in the chair on Monday next. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
A business which spans 88 years and reaches across four generations, Kelly’s Barbers in Castlebar has experienced its fair share of thrills and spills since Thomas Kelly first opened his doors back in 1932.
The popular barbershop shop located on Castle Street is now being run by his grandson, John, who took over the mantle from his father, Seán. Right next door, John’s sister Maura runs a successful hair and beauty salon, with the next generation from both families also working in the ranks.
As far as family businesses go, the Kelly dynasty is right up there.
“We pride ourselves on customer service to the best of our ability,” John told The Mayo News. “Our customers are at the centre of our business and taking care of them is our number one priority.
“All our staff take great pride in their work and are constantly upskilling. This is so important so we can provide the best possible service. They are hard working and a pleasure to be around – it’s a lovely atmosphere in the shop!”
However, looking back in time, it’s fair to say that the family business has never experienced a situation as complex and sudden as the Covid-19 pandemic which forced John to shut their doors back in March. And like everyone else, they had to ride it out and see what unfolded.
“The lockdown period was tough on every business that had to close,” he admitted. “As we were fully closed from March 14, we had to put our staff on temporary lay off, but we are delighted that they will be back again once we reopen.
“Saying that it was nice to be at home and have quality time with the family and a well needed rest. The garden has never looked better!”
The new normal
As per the fast-tracked Government Roadmap, barbers and hairdressers received official word last week that they would be re-opening their doors on June 29, instead of the original July 20 date.
John was aware that the date of opening could be forwarded to June and over the last couple of weeks has been busy preparing for what business in the new normal will look like for the foreseeable future.
“We have had to make some changes so that we are in line with government guidelines and HSA recommendations,” he said. “For example we have refurbished our walk in shop – The Barber Rooms – which has increased floor space.
“We have also added hand sanitising stations in both barber shops for the safety of our customers and staff and have extended our opening hours so we can cater for all customers, especially those who work later.
“As a member of the Barbers Society of Ireland we have worked closely with HABIC and at government level to bring guidelines and recommendations to the barbering industry. We are going to try and make the ‘new normal’ as normal as possible for everyone.”
Moving forward, Kelly’s will be operating an appointment-based system through their website in both their barber shop and fine grooming shop two doors down to reduce the amount of people on their premises at any one time.
One major concern for the barbering industry, John says, will be the new overhead of personal protective equipment.
“Our team will be wearing PPE to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and our clients,” he said. “Also, each customer will be provided with a clean, sanitised gown.
“As our hygiene protocols have always been to a high standard this will make the transition easier. The biggest issues for barbers I would say is the cost of PPE and laundry.
“This has added a large overhead to our business and also for all small businesses, especially for barbers and hairdressers.”
So, life in the new normal will be another chapter for the Kelly’s history books, but one they’re determined to meet head on and overcome.
John believes small local businesses are the focal point for improving the local economy, and has encouraged people to support local traders in the months ahead.