Thursday, June 28, 2007

Store Wars

I spent my childhood in newsagents and bookstores. Even to this day they're still some of my favourite places to be at any time of the week, whether I'm buying or not. A couple of things happened in close succession last weekend that made me ponder this.

The first was seeing the picture above. While it may not mean much to the non-parents among us the Hughes and Hughes that only specialised in kids books on the top of the Stephen's Green Centre has closed. Shame that. It was the only dedicated kids bookstore I've come across in recent times and always a bit of an Aladdin's cave for the little ones during a trip into town.

The selection of books they had was vast and only really surpassed by Waterstones in Dawson Street and Borders in Blanchardstown. Obviously there wasn't the business to sustain a dedicated outlet and they've moved to a small section in the Hughes and Hughes proper in the ground floor. I hate to think it but beautiful bookstores (outside of a few big notable survivors) are, I'm afraid, a dying breed. Am I wrong?

I passed one of the most important locations of my childhood on the same day - Hyland's on Suir Road in Kilmainham, although that's not what it's called anymore. It was just a little newsagent jammed in between the bookies and the locksmith (both still there!) but every Saturday it was a stop off of choice on the way into or out of town where John Hyland would have all that week's U.S. comics or the likes of Eagle or 2000AD stashed away for me (my love for all those is another post for another day!)

He was a lovely man, a typical corner shop newsagent, knew every detail of everything he sold and a breed that has almost died away. The shop eventually became a Spar and since then a "My Gift". I went in a while back, for old time's sake, and I shouldn't have. It looked like every other convenience store in the land, with a slack-jawed youth behind the counter, and was, as a result, extremely depressing.

What happened to the local newsagent? When he wasn't a Spar or a Mace or a Centra? When it was his (or her) name above the door? When he'd hold back your favourite comic for you, or order something in, or simply know the name of his regulars?

There's a row of shops near where my wife grew up that used to be a haberdashery, a newsagent, a grocery, 2 butchers, a chemist, a discount grocery store, a hardware, a fruit and veg and a chipper. Today they are an endorphin release clinic(!), a Mace, off-licence, 2 butchers, chemist, Centra, fruit and veg and a chinese takeaway. How much longer before the remaining stragglers are swallowed up and swept away?

You can't stop progress.


  1. "endorphin release clinic" WTF!
    I woulda thought we'd be trying to hang onto them? No?

  2. I know what you mean...we have a 24 hour newsagent near us, which was great when the first child was born...we'd go out for late night (early morning?) walks, pop in there and scan some mags. It didn't even have a door, that's how 24 hour it was! I think it closed only for a few hours on Christmas. Now, it's been sold, and the new owners are shutting it for a few hours every night.

    The old owner of the store has since moved up the road a little way, and we prefer to go to him. In fact, I'm doing the partwork Art of Knitting, and I've asked him to tuck the ones that I'll miss away for me under the counter, and I'll get them when we come back. Cause he is the type who does that. He delivers things to a neighbor as well. The people who work for him know our little ones and say hi all the time.

    It's the community feel, I think, that helps things. When those types of stores close, a piece of community goes away.

    Jaysus, when did I get so serious?! Roll on vino!!!!