State’s first PPE shop to open in Dún Laoghaire

Store will sell face masks, sanitisers and high-tech solutions for offices and businesses

Ireland’s first dedicated PPE store has opened in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. As well as selling face masks, hand sanitiser, gloves, thermometers and oximeters the store also offers high tech equipment for use in office settings. Video: Bryan O'Brien

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Ireland’s first dedicated personal protective equipment (PPE) shop will open on Monday in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. The business has taken over the former Blacktie dress hire premises on the town’s Lower George’s Street which has remained idle for the past year.

The shop will sell visors in six colours, 40 different face masks for men, women and children, hand sanitiser, thermometers and oximeters (used to assess oxygen levels in tandem with thermometers), and a face mask refresher mist with peppermint and lavender from a new Irish supplier, Rosie B Blends, who created fragrances for Christian Dior and Chanel.

On the first floor, by appointment only, will be an area dedicated to high-tech solutions and equipment for office and corporate businesses, including self-cleaning door handles, TV screens, monitors, thermometers and sanitisation solutions from KelTech, an Irish smart technology company which exports all over the world.

Behind the initiative is Martin O’Byrne, owner of high-end menswear shop Frewen & Alyward six doors down, his family business since 1995.

O’Byrne had to close his doors for three months because of the pandemic. “I didn’t want to waste the time, and took the opportunity to think outside my menswear bubble.”

He decided to do an audit on rents in all the vacant premises in Dún Laoghaire.

“Rents are 80 per cent lower than the city centre here, and I believe there are abundant opportunities in the town now. People travel if you have a niche.”

The idea of opening an essential service business took root after his initial plan to open a ladies boutique was abandoned, as that could mean closing two businesses in the event of another lockdown.

He had already started to offer Edmund McNulty snoods as face coverings in his menswear shop, “so Irish style PPE got me thinking”.

Suburbs boost

A rag trade colleague in Italy who had pivoted into PPE products, and another colleague looking for premises to store Chinese PPE, further boosted the idea of a dedicated premises, so O’Byrne did a deal on the rent and, with his partner, set up the business.

“We don’t sell online because we are bricks and mortar, and because we are about service and luxury and a destination shop. That is not very easily done online,” O’Byrne says.

“Our casual collections and accessories are doing all the business, and we have pivoted out of suits for the last three years. Customers who used to buy three suits a year now buy one good suit for three years.

“In my opinion the suburbs are the place to be for the foreseeable future, given that people are now working from home,” he says. “And if we can save lives and make PPE available to everybody, that will be an end in itself.”

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