Hewett Newsagents in Monkstown closes its doors for last time after 75 years

Shop, which dealt primarily in newspapers and magazines, mobbed by well-wishers on Sunday following decision to ‘pull the plug’

Cliodhna Ni Anluain with Eoghan and Brian Fay congratulating Thelma and David Hewett during their last day of business. Photograph: Alan Betson

There were queues of wellwishers laden with flowers, chocolates and bottles of prosecco all day at Hewett Newsagents in Monkstown, Dublin, on Sunday as the owners of the 75-year-old corner shop prepared to close its doors for the last time.

The shop on Carrickbrennan Road in the heart of the village had been in operation since 1949 and was run by Thelma (67) and David Hewett (78) for the past 42 years, after David’s father had a stroke and stepped away from the business.

“We literally just closed the door two seconds ago,” Mrs Hewett said in a call on Sunday. “It was emotional. Somebody organised a party outside for us with a gazebo, and the local restaurant made sandwiches.

“There were people who came in, meeting up, who hadn’t seen each other for 20 years. People who came to Monkstown when they had no kids and who now have kids in their twenties. We gave the majority of the Sunday papers away for free today.”

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About half of the shop’s turnover was generated by print media such as newspapers, periodicals and magazines. Mrs Hewett said her husband would get up at 4.30am every day to meet the delivery van drivers.

“Retail is a vocation,” she said. Sometimes you have to put on a false self if you are not feeling good, or you have this customer who comes in that irritates you every day. The main thing from it is the happy memories.

“When we started in 1949, there was a sort of status attached to selling newspapers. My husband’s father was president of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association and he got to meet De Valera. People trusted us, but all that’s gone now.”

Hewett Newsagents in the heart of Monkstown village

Mrs Hewett said the couple only decided to “pull the plug” on the business the week before last.

“It’s very sad that single practitioners and sole traders are being run out of the high street,” she said. “We just can’t go on. Most people aren’t reading full news articles any more. They are getting fragments on social media, so why buy print media?

“There is a generation that has probably never opened a newspaper. It is very sad there is that generation that are missing out on the value of reading a full article.”

Another factor in the decision to close was the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The couple and their daughter would previously have delivered newspapers to a selection of local customers, but this grew fourfold during the pandemic.

“But then our customers got so used to getting it at home that when Covid ended, they all still got home deliveries,” she said. “That vintage that we would have in Monkstown, a lot of them have never really come back out.

Thelma and David Hewett during their last day of business. Photograph: Alan Betson

“They got used to watching mass online, so attendance at the church across the road has dramatically fallen. About 10 per cent of our trade depended on that, and only about 1 per cent is still coming now. Many of them are afraid to come out.

“Another thing that has killed the paper trade is the end of multiple editions a day like you used to get with the Evening Herald. It would be sent out with a guy on a little motorbike and then thrown at the door. Now everybody gets the news online within two minutes.”

Mrs Hewett said she and her husband were “heartbroken” but looking forward to “a new journey”. The premises is available for rent at €30,000 per year, according to ads on property websites. One party has expressed an interest in setting up a coffee shop, but nothing has been signed yet, Mrs Hewett said.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter