Best Shops: where do you get your weekly treat?
Best Shops 2016 has kicked off and nominations are pouring in. Have you voted for your favourite shop yet?
For her weekly treat and “bit of heaven”, as Bernie O’Brien puts it she visits Arboretum in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow
And we’re off with hundreds of nominations coming in from the 32 counties in the 2016 Best Shops in Ireland competition, backed by AIB.
The best family-run shop category, new to the competition this year, has captured readers’ imaginations with many of the first nominations in this section. There's always great banter with the staff in Dooley’s Flowers in Athlone, Co Westmeath, writes Roy Mullally who has nominated it in the best family run category, new to the competition this year. He says “owner Kevin goes above and beyond to help his customers, from advice on what local spuds to buy to greeting everyone personally. Their shop is very impressive, a huge flower shop and greengrocer, their daughter Orlagh has built up a serious reputation as a wedding florist. They are an institution in Athlone and it's always a tonic to call in anytime of the year.”
For her weekly treat and “bit of heaven”, as Bernie O’Brien puts it she visits Arboretum in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow. She usually starts with breakfast in Rachels Garden Café, takes a walk in its ‘Inspirational Garden', and is usually tempted to invest in yet another plant for her garden. “The store is a model of best practice, where you are greeted by one of the Doyle family or one of their excellent team, all who know the importance of customer care,” she writes.
Lawlor’s Gala food shop on the square in Durrow, Co Laois, is a store that has everything for daily needs, writes Willem Guertsen. “Compared to the big retailers this is an old fashioned enterprise. The staff are very friendly and helpful.”
Philipp Matuschka captures what a local store is about when he says that O’Keefe’s Country Store in Donard, Co Wicklow is “always friendly, has all the essentials, is the focal point of many local activities, knows what's happening and has time to chat and is open seven days a week”.
In the best food and drink shop section, one of the competition’s most popular classes, The Hopsack in Rathmines’ Swan Centre is a well-run and comprehensive health food and vegetarian shop with excellent lunch menus available all year, writes Michael Halliday.
Another tightly contested category is best specialist shop. Eileen Curran thinks Blush boutique in Belfast deserves to be commended for its “sincere and genuine service to both visitors and customers who visit the store. This service often extends to practical help ie, picking customers up from or returning them to the train station, visiting a bride's home and helping them (and other members of the bridal party) to dress and prepare on the big day.”
Like many Irish Times readers Mags Ferncombe loves a hardware store. She writes that the management and staff at Ronayne Hire & Hardware in Thurles, Co Tipperary are always lovely, always willing to help any way they can. “They go out of their way for you every time. Friendly faces, expert advice always on hand. What more could a customer ask for,” she asks. “They've got my vote.”
With nominations pouring in it is time to get behind your favourite shop and vote for it in Best Shops 2016 at irishtimes.com/bestshops.
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