It’s Thursday, October 22, the first day of lockdown or Level 5 restrictions, and I am walking along the Main Street of Tipperary Town. It’s a much quieter town today with a lot less traffic coming through and not many people on the streets.
I call in firstly to O’Dwyer Bros., and find the shop to be reasonably busy and the owners/proprietors John and Philomena O’Dwyer, behind the counter.
John directs my initial query to Philomena who brings me away from the counter to chat in a quieter section of the shop and proceeds to tell me that they had a very busy couple of days in the run up to restrictions but that it is much quieter now.
“The phone never stopped ringing for the last two days with people wanting to know if we would be remaining open. Once people knew that we would be open they were happy. People are much more relaxed this time and not panicking as they were on the last occasion. It’s much quieter today than it had been but then that is to be expected. We are retaining all staff and we will take it day by day and week by week.”
I then called to Flanagan’s where I met Niamh Quinn McIlveney, who with her husband Gary recently took over Flanagan’s Lane Restaurant.
Niamh was set up outside the door filling orders for takeaway service and is regretful at the decision to remove outdoor dining as even though it was relatively small business it was nonetheless bringing people to their service which is now solely dependent on takeaway.
“It is very hard on everyone and particularly hard on our staff. We are determined though to keep the business going and within the next three weeks we will be opening a bakery and deli service adjoining the restaurant in what was the former Greene’s Stationery.
"This is a major development for us as the entire area had to be revamped and ovens, fridges, coffee machines etc., had to be procured which represented a substantial investment on our part. We will also have an area there showcasing the very best of Tipperary produce. Covid is not going away any time soon but we will continue to provide a takeaway service for our customers.”
My next stop was at Julie’s Children’s Wear where I met proprietor Julia Walsh. She told me that the school uniform aspect of her business related to about 60% of her entire business and that as the children were still attending school she considered it to be an essential service.
“I did seek clarification on this and the information that I was given was that it was an essential service so I am going with that until I am told otherwise.
"Many of my customers would be paying in instalments so in order for that to continue I will remain open and customers can collect once full payment is received. The uniform business is an all year round business and customers require changes of uniforms, blouses, jumpers etc., throughout the year.”
Having left Julie’s I popped in next door to Dave Mc’s and met Dave McMahon. Dave is remaining open as he is deemed essential.
“We are selling workwear and PPE clothing so we are in the essential category. We already had it in stock and there was some demand for it but we expect that to increase now. However, in general I am already seeing a major decline in footfall and that is a huge hammer blow to us.
"A lot of our business comes from the hinterland and with the restrictions on travel we expect this to impact on our business up to 70%. We are still operating online and expect to have our website up and running next week.”
My final stop was across the road in Flowers by Dorothy where I met the proprietor Dorothy Casey who was of the opinion that her business would have to survive on telephone orders.
“As you can see there is no footfall so I am hoping that we can continue with telephone orders. People can still have flowers delivered and payment can be made over the phone by card so that facility is still there for everyone.
"It is hard to know what will happen over the next six weeks but we are still open for business currently and also available by telephone and we hope to remain so throughout the restrictions.”
It was very sad and sobering to walk the Main Street and to see so many places closed for business. I can only wish those who are remaining open the very best during this difficult period and to encourage the community to remember to shop local either in person or on line.