One of the last chamber pots – or pos, as they were more commonly called – sold in JJ Glynn’s hardware shop in Westport was to a hen party who arrived in all dressed up one Saturday afternoon for a night of festivities in the tourism town. Such purchases, or their ultimate use as possible receptacles for outrageous cocktail drinking, didn’t faze the shop owner, Dave Warde or his son, Rory (23).
As they prepare to pull down the shutters for the last time on Saturday (February 4th) due to “massive changes in the market”, the father and son are sanguine about their decision.
“This is a shop from a certain time and that time has gone. Unfortunately, the market has become too big for us,” says Rory, who has studied business through an online course.
Dave says: “Trying to get stock and inflation of prices has become a problem because of Brexit and the war. A lot of our stock is bits and bobs, so if you have a fellow coming in to get a few nails, or screws, and he is paying you €1.50 on his smartwatch and then you have to pay 27 cents to the bank for the transaction, it is not making sense.”
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Rory also cites the importance and impact of “the personal one-to-one relationship” with customers in such shops.
“In our case, when a customer walks in here, let’s say for weed killer and it has quadrupled in price, as it has, well, they are not going to be very happy with you. Whereas if they walk in to Lidl or Woodies, they won’t be haggling with the cashier,” Dave says.
The cross-generational story of this shop began with his grand-uncles, Johnny and Willie Glynn, in 1924. They originally hailed from Ballinasloe, Co Galway and after a stint in another hardware shop in the Co Mayo town, Johnny decided to open his own premises.
We used to sell coal back then too and as kids we’d dread delivery day on Wednesdays and hauling in big 80kg sack bags down to the shed
As well as operating as a grocery and pub for many years, Glynn sold horse-drawn carriages during the early days and was pioneering in selling flat-pack hay sheds from the outbuilding in the yards to the rear.
Like many traditional shops it had an adjacent archway with a little alley leading to the outbuildings and stores. Old ledgers show customers were facilitated with deliveries from as far away as Kylemore Abbey and Lord Altamont’s Delphi Lodge, as well as the islands of Achill, Clare and Inishturk. Dave recalls one note including the transportation of “a live pig”.
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In 1959 Dave’s father, Paddy, a nephew of the original owners Johnny and Willie, took over.
“The pub was still going then and I remember my father used to sell bottles of white-labelled Guinness. The rumour went around town that this particular brand cured all sorts of ailments and business really benefited even though it was just a marketing tool,” says Dave wryly.
Born in 1972 Dave Warde grew up with his nine siblings over this busy town-centre shop, with its bell at the top of the stairs signalling the arrival of a customer.
When we used to sell rifles and guns and ammunition, we had to keep a record of all stock and amounts of ammunition you had and who you sold it to
Among the regular jobs he recalls washing out the bottles of stout and beer with special brushes before they were returned to be filled by the brewer or to soft drinks maker, Schweppes, once again.
“We used to sell coal back then too and as kids we’d dread delivery day on Wednesdays and hauling in big 80kg sack bags down to the shed,” he says.
Indeed, the versatile shop also had a license to sell guns and ammunition until 2005.
This might have been before Rory’s time but his passionate interest in the legacy of the family business is clear.
“When we used to sell rifles and guns and ammunition, we had to keep a record of all stock and amounts of ammunition you had and who you sold it to, as the owners were garda vetted. Farmers used to buy rifles for shooting grey crows who would attack young lambs after they were born. Hunting took off in Westport during the 1970s and some people bought weapons for shooting pheasants,” says Rory. He has helped out his Dad in the shop throughout his teens.
A draftsman by trade, Dave took over “for six weeks” after the untimely death of his brother, Alan, in 2005, but laughs, as he says: “Almost 20 years later and I am still here standing behind the counter.”
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This week as father and son prepare to close the doors of their family shop on Saturday evening, it is clear its legacy means much more than its inclusion in Co Mayo’s Record of Protected Structures.
JJ Glynns provided the people of the area with cup hooks and saws, fencing staples and wire nails, padlocks and chains, brush heads and mops, keys and locks, spatulas and wooden spoons over the decades. Its story is also told through old memorabilia and photographs that pepper the walls.
Rory encapsulates its story as he recalls how, a few years ago, one of the “ould stock” who used to frequent the pub back when it was still open, walked in through the shop one day, bid them a good day and disappeared through the back door to where the urinals once were and relieved himself.
“He was well tanked at the time but it just shows, people had the connection to the past and in a way it hasn’t changed here,” says Rory.
Now, however, they agree, it is time to start clearing out all the provisions, furnishing and fixtures and bric-a-brac a family business has gathered over a century.
“I suppose after that is done, it is either sell or rent,” says Dave Warde.