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Retail ‘buzz’ returns to Castlebar after reopening


GOOD TO BE BACK  Leo Doherty, proprietor of Doherty’s Menswear, Main Street, Castlebar just after he opened his doors yesterday (Monday) morning. Pic: Conor McKeown

Clothes and shoe shop owners delighted to be open on county town’s main thoroughfare

Oisín McGovern

CASTLEBAR got back on its feet after over four months of lockdown when all of its shops fully reopened yesterday (Monday).
The sense of optimism was palpable among traders in the renowned shopping town as customers were allowed set foot in shops for the first time since before Christmas.
What makes this third reopening different is the sense that this time, it’s for good.
That’s the view of Richie Needham, owner of Unit 7 menswear store on Main Street, who’s ‘absolutely delighted’ to be open again.
“It just felt like we’re back in business again. It feels like it could be for good this time so there’s a bit more optimism about it,” Richie told The Mayo News yesterday evening (Monday).
“We’ve been very busy so thank God we’ve got off to a good start,” he added.
With few dos or functions, weddings or wakes to attend at the moment, most men have been stocking up on the essentials.  “Lots of fellas are stocking up on jocks and jeans and t-shirts. Guys that would be needing basic stuff,” said Richie. “We sold a couple of suits, so I’m happy with that too.”
For long periods of the past year, the busiest thoroughfare in Mayo’s biggest shopping town has been unrecognisable.
However, with shops reopened footfall is slowly on the increase as the county town treads gentle back to the ‘old normal’.
“We’ve been working in the shop on and off over the last couple of weeks getting things ready and it’s been like a ghost town,” said Richie.
“There’s definitely a real buzz around the town, and you can see it.
“Everyone’s happy to be able to come in and try stuff on and touch and feel stuff. Obviously, online shopping is good, but it’s a different experience to be able to walk into a shop and feel the garment and pick it up and buy it,” he added.

‘Frustrating few months’
Just down the road, Leo Doherty of Leo Doherty Menswear said that trade has been gentle but is glad to simply be open to the public.
“It’s great to get open again. It’s been a long, frustrating few months,” said the proprietor of the renowned menswear establishment.
“Pretty much every shop is stocked to the roof so it’s vital that small businesses open and get back trading again. It’s going to be a slow process for a while until bars and restaurants and hotels get open fully,” he added.
“This time of year we’d be busy with our suits for Communions, Confirmations, grads, weddings. Obviously, that’s all off apart from very small weddings. That side of our business is from April until the end of summer.
“Until bars and restaurants get open and people are going out for something to eat and drink and realise they’ve to put on something fresh and they’ve to dress up a bit. When weddings get going that will pick up business too.”
Regarding the near future, Leo predicts that things will take a little while longer before business is fully back to normal.
“We could be looking at a quiet opening couple of weeks and then it will gradually get busier during the summer as things get back to a little bit more normal.
“It’s just going to take a bit of time … when we got back after the first lockdown last June we weren’t expecting much because events were cancelled and postponed and put back.
“It’s nearly a replica of what happened last year… it was a couple of weeks before things started to ramp up a bit and get a bit busier and I’d expect the same thing this year to be honest.”

Stocking up
Across the road at the intersection of Ellison Street and Castle Street, customers at Parsons Shoes frequently bought multiple pairs of footwear.
Owner Sinéad Parsons, who worked an hour later than usual yesterday (Monday), was delighted to welcome back some of her long-time customers.
“[When I opened up] there was an old man waiting for me that I know. That was so heartwarming,” said Sinéad.
“One man came in this evening with a pair of slippers on him. I said ‘You must have awful bad feet.’ He said ‘No, I’ve no shoes,’” she added.
“A lot of older people, even though they’re vaccinated, they’re still masking. I noticed a lot of people wearing two masks today, which we didn’t notice ever before.
“Some woman was like: ‘I nearly fell through your window so many times through lockdown’.”
She concluded with a laugh: “Hopefully now there’ll be no more lockdowns!”