One of the stalwarts of retailing in Athlone will call it a day in his 50th year of business when Noel Ryan of Mardyke Street closes the doors to his drapers today (January 31 ).
The store itself is 70 years old this year, having been opened by Noel’s father in 1944.
“We’re an old-fashioned style shop that’s managed it through all the ups and downs of business in about six recessions, and all because I married a great woman from Tipperary. At 5pm tomorrow we’ll be out of here,” said Noel yesterday.
“We’re kind of unique, but it was the customers kept us going. The terraces kept us going, the farmers, the army, they all kept us going,” he added.
Noel joined the family business after a three-year apprenticeship in Tullamore in 1965, aged 18, on the death of his father who left a 47-year-old widow with seven children aged 19 to six.
Noel so took to the family trade that he was able to dispense with his last member of staff just four years later, and continued running the show with just himself and his wife Deirdre for the following 45 years.
“Every six months we’d get on a plane,” he said by way of explanation as to how he coped with this over the years, but conceded now the time was right.
“I have about 20 reasons for getting out, and all are pretty valid. Still. I drank the porter and had the craic. I’d be a little bit nostalgic today,” he added.
Noel and Deirdre will be 40 years married in March, and will celebrate this by taking a well-earned trip to Australia to see Noel’s brother.
“When we come back, we’ll see if we can get another business in her [the premises],” he offered by way of plans for the future.