Future Proof: Tom Monaghan, Monaghans Cashmere
Hard work and quality product never goes out of fashion
Tom Monaghan, proprietor of Monaghans Cashmere, Hibernia Way, Dawson St, Dublin. photograph: brenda fitzsimons
When the downturn began in 2009, it was the third time that Monaghans Cashmere faced a recession. The store’s owner, Tom Monaghan, says that there’s no doubt that it has been “the worst one”.
“I think most retailers are struggling to continue to pay their expenses,” he says. “We see day in and day out [they] are... going out of business”.
In 1960, Tom and his wife Teresa spotted a gap in the market to sell high-quality cashmere and lambswool sweaters. Together they founded the first Monaghans store at the former Grafton Arcade. In the early 1990s, they moved to the Hibernian Way mall just off Dawson Street after tenants started to vacate the Arcade when their leases were bought out.
“I wanted to stay there because it had been very successful for me,” he says. “It was not easy going. We talk about austerity now, we didn’t know the meaning of austerity [then]. You put your head down and worked, and that [was what] both of us did.” Neither he nor his wife took a holiday for the first 12 years. Over time the business began to grow, becoming popular with golfers and horse racing enthusiasts. Before long it offered the largest selection of Scottish cashmere available in Ireland. “Things began to change, business began to improve,” he says.
In addition to being popular with Irish customers, Tom and Theresa’s product offering also attracted the attention of tourists, which helped the business battle through recessions.
“When Ireland was going through a very bad recession in 1970, we were doing well because we had tourism and we were catering for [it] at the time,” he says.
“Then comes [the recession in] 1980 and it was the same,” he says. “The dollar was equivalent to the pound and the Americans spent as if there were no tomorrow. We have traded very successfully since.”
A testament to Monaghan’s reputation is that Tom’s customers have also included well-known personalities such as Maureen O’Hara, Maureen Potter and Golden Globe winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
He also recalls with fondness a memory of Ronnie Drew sitting in the shop for hours while passers-by popped in to shake his hand. “Ronnie loved bright colours [and] pink shirts,” he says. “He was such a wonderful character.”
Tom says that the biggest challenges facing the business at the moment are rates and upward-only rent agreements.