Half way through the Best Shops campaign and we’ve been inundated with 10,985 nominations for more than 1,350 shops throughout the 32 counties.
Hardware shops, craft shops, post offices, general stores, even branches of Lidl, have been praised by readers for their stock, their staff and their service. Gilmartin's Pharmacy in Gort gets a Best Shop window nomination for its quirky and unusual vintage medicinal and beauty products display, writes Conor Noonan. "Passers-by can often be seen laughing at the advertisements for Bile Beans, Iron Jelloids and Gibbs Super Fatted Shaving Cream. It's full of coloured bottles, faded tins and cautionary tales of unfortunates afflicted by body odour, dandruff and piles."
Reddy O'Regan is voting for Clara's Closet, an interiors store in Skibbereen. "The traditional shop front that gives an exciting window into its Aladdin's Cave interior," he writes.These people know good design when they see it. The shop's savvy Facebook page pays tribute to the chamber of the stone age passage tomb at Newgrange, Boyne Valley, under the caption "great Irish interiors".
In Kilkenny, Butterslip has been a favourite shop of Martina Foley "for years, not only for the great gifts and beautiful jewellery, but for the way entering this shop can really cheer you up". In Drogheda Frances Shackleton loves a shop called The Gift Box, "because the two ever-so glamorous ladies who work there never interfere with the delicious wander through to the back where there are hidden gems at realistic prices."
Waterford reader Maire Ryle is nominating Moe's Cafe, Tramore, for its easy-going atmosphere. "Informal, there is always someone to talk to. The view in any weather, summer or winter, is beautiful. Tony, Helen, their family and staff are a joy. The decor is beach chic, most of it carried out by Tony in between his spells on the waves kite surfing. Music ranges from Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen to 80s ballads. Coffee is €2 . Lots of newspapers too."
"Does your granddad like caraway seed cake, is your auntie partial to a Battenberg – they make them all and they make them all excellently at Sugar and Spice bakery and cafe in Bunclody, Co Wexford, says reader Paula Jane Murphy Lovely place, lovely people, lovely food."
In Co Kerry, Anne Tracey has voted for Ventry Post Office in the Artisan Food and Greengrocer category. "For a small shop, in the back of beyonds, this shop has it all," she writes. "Groceries, wholefoods, fresh fruit and veg, locally made breads, fresh sandwiches and rolls made to order, with baked or green ham or turkey, freshly sliced. There are cakes and breads from Courtney's of Dingle. There is coal, briquettes and gas available, and bags of logs, all at competitive prices. And you can post a letter, send a parcel, buy a postal order – and get an update on the weather."
In Skerries, Co Dublin Frock Exchange boutique is "fantastic for big label bargains", writes reader Eva Filgate. She recently purchased a Marc Jacobs bag for €275 that had originally cost €999.
Shops, if you haven’t started your campaign yet , there’s still time – the nominations don’t close until August 9th.
This year we've enlisted the help of retail experts to help us judge the winners – Simon Pratt, MD of Avoca; Edmund Shanahan, a retail and fashion consultant; fashion designers and Frockadvisor columnists Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney, and Irish Times journalist Alanna Gallagher. HOW TO NOMINATE To nominate a shop go to irishtimes.com/bestshops Follow the competition on Twitter at #bestshops14