Churchtown: ‘There’s a buzz that mightn’t have been there before’

New businesses have transformed the Dublin 14 suburb from a bend in the road on way to Dundrum

Emma Davy, from The Cosy Bean, and Robbie Malone, from Robbie’s greengrocer, Churchtown, Dublin 14. Both are building solid businesses in the suburb. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Emma Davy, from The Cosy Bean, and Robbie Malone, from Robbie’s greengrocer, Churchtown, Dublin 14. Both are building solid businesses in the suburb. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

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“It’s all about the suburbs,” says Robbie Malone, owner of Robbie’s greengrocer in Churchtown, south Co Dublin. “Town is gone. I’ve been talking to suppliers this morning and they would supply a lot of retail outlets like me and they’ve pulled out of the city centre. It’s that bad, the volume just isn’t there and it’s going to take a long, long time for town to recover.”

Robbie’s greengrocer, situated on Churchtown Road Upper and beside the former Braemor Rooms/McGowans pub site, opened last March.

The upmarket food store is one of several new businesses that have started up in the Dublin 14 suburb in recent months, including the Elephant and Castle restaurant (owned by Press Up Entertainment group), which opened in December 2019.

On a sunny Tuesday morning in Churchtown, Howards Way and the Cosy Bean’s outdoor areas are bustling with retirees and younger people catching up over a coffee. The SuperValu car park is jammed while people dash back and forth across the village’s green spaces, picking up a prescription from the medical centre or a pastry to go.

Robbie Malone from Robbie’s greengrocer: ‘Churchtown is a real bubble at the moment . . . It’s very hip.’ Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Robbie Malone from Robbie’s greengrocer: ‘Churchtown is a real bubble at the moment . . . It’s very hip.’ Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
A low-rise, compact and busy trading locality in Churchtown, Dublin 14. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
A low-rise, compact and busy trading locality in Churchtown, Dublin 14. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

“We’re flying, we could not have opened at a better time,” says Malone. “Churchtown is a real bubble at the moment and it’s been growing for a few years. It’s very hip, there’s a lot of people hanging around.”

Up until recently, the area was perhaps best known for the sizable SuperValu and considered little more than a bend in the road on the way to Dundrum shopping centre. However Churchtown has been transformed, according to residents and local businesses who also point to the area’s added advantages of the Luas and selection of schools.

“Five years ago they were tearing up every road, they were lifting up every path but what you have now is amazing infrastructure,” adds Malone. “The roads, footpaths, cycle tracks; it has everything going for it as well as a huge amount of green space. It’s got that real leafy suburban feel about it.”

Paul Cullen from Stillorgan, who is waiting outside Churchtown Medical, admits he avoids town if possible.

“I used to hop on the Luas every day to go into the city but because of Covid I don’t want to be near crowds now,” he says. “Also, because of the space restrictions it’s just a bit of a hassle.”

Churchtown in Dublin 14 is blessed with numerous leafy, inviting green spaces. Photograph: Damien Eagers
Churchtown in Dublin 14 is blessed with numerous leafy, inviting green spaces. Photograph: Damien Eagers
Churchtown in Dublin 14 is well serviced by numerous small businesses. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Churchtown in Dublin 14 is well serviced by numerous small businesses. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Dolores Kennedy, who has been living in nearby Dundrum for more than 30 years, feels the same. “I would have gone to town a lot before the pandemic and gotten the Luas in,” she says. “I really like the vibe of the city centre but I’m still reluctant to go on the Luas now because there are more people around. If we’re going out for a meal now, we’re more likely to go local.

“This is the busiest I’ve seen Churchtown in the time I’ve been here. There’s definitely more life and you’re more inclined to stay where that is. A day is gone if you’re going into town, it’s an expedition.”

Michael Kelly, estate agent with Vincent Finnegan, describes Churchtown as “a highly sought after area” with average house prices at €575,000.

“Anything that does go up is snapped up quite quickly,” says Kelly. “People who were renting in the city centre and now don’t have to work there in the office, they’ve resorted more to the suburbs and the likes of Churchtown to buy and rent. The new cycle tracks are of massive benefit to younger families in particular as well as the new businesses.”

Keeva Bentham, brand and marketing manager with Press Up Entertainment, says Elephant & Castle Churchtown and its sister restaurant in Monkstown are “considerably busier” than their city centre locations, with much higher footfall. Lockdown and the trend towards people meeting for coffee outdoors prompted them to adapt by opening earlier and offering takeaway coffee, cakes and pastries – “something we had never done before”.

Bentham says by changing the offering to suit the local community needs, it has paid off and customers’ lockdown habits look set to continue.

“With things returning to normal and people returning to the office, you would expect a drop in demand, however our coffee offering, deliveries and takeaways are still as busy as ever,” she says.

Emma Davy, from The Cosy Bean, has been living in Churchtown for more than 15 years. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Emma Davy, from The Cosy Bean, has been living in Churchtown for more than 15 years. Photograph: Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Emma Davy, owner of the Cosy Bean, has been living in Churchtown for more than 15 years with her family. Her coffee shop opened last September and it is “definitely not a pop up”.

“We’re hopefully going to be here for many, many years to come. That’s the plan,” she says. “During the pandemic there was an opening for people to get out and get walking and have their takeaway coffees. I suppose the timing was quite lucky in that sense.

“There’s a buzz about Churchtown that mightn’t have been there before. It was a positive side of the pandemic for us here.”

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