In 1871, Thomas Lipton from Glasgow used his savings to open his first shop. By the 1880s he had more than 200 shops. He was an entrepreneur, and when he realised that there was potential for growth in the market for tea, and that the product was too expensive, he went to Ceylon and bought his own tea plantation. He sold his tea at low prices in one pound, half pound, and quarter pound packets, and he advertised it very cleverly: “Direct from the Tea Gardens to the Teapot,” or, “Treat your Lips to a Cup Of Lipton’s Peko Tips Tea, two shillings and eight pence per pound.”
He opened for business on Shop Street at the beginning of the last century with a very upmarket grocery shop and delicatessen from which the staff served countless thousands of Galwegians. Lipton’s had a trade entrance on Abbeygate Street, an arched double door beside the Pro-Cathedral that led into the back of the shop. It was the first company in Ireland to have its own brand names – Lipton’s Jams, Lipton’s Teas, and Lipton’s Whiskey, which sold for four shillings and nine pence a quart. The sign on the right of the nameboard over the shop advertises Lipton’s Homemade Cakes, and the one on the left advertises Lipton’s Hams and Bacon. You can see why with all the sides of bacon hanging outside the shop. It had an interesting looking lamp over the front door.
Liptons were great employers and employed many. Mr Carr was the shop manager in 1923, and he was followed by Mr Charlie Byrne, then Mr O’Connor, Mr Burke, and Mr F Colohan. Many of those who worked there went on to found their own successful businesses.
Our photograph was taken c1928 and shows Charlie Byrne with some of his well turned out staff. They are, from left: Gussie Madden, a scoutmaster who once went down the Cliffs of Moher to retrieve a body; Larry O’Donnell from Waterside; Michael Murray, a Mayo man; Michael King from College Road; Bob Mulveagh; Kathleen Conaire; Charlie Byrne; Kathleen Lally; Margaret Curran from Henry Street; Willy Silke; Jack Burke, Quay Street; Donie McClennant; Tommy Pierce from Bowling Green; Pat Forde; Bill McDonagh (a policeman’s son ); and Johnny Stokes.
Many of those who remember Lipton’s in Galway would identify them with Jimmy Mulvoy who worked with the company for more than 50 years.
In later years, they put the word supermarket over the door. The company eventually closed its Galway branch in 1976.