Shopping Spraoi: Castlebar

Hard times haven’t dampened the entrepreneurial spirit of Mayo’s county town

 

Castlebar is Mayo’s county town and has strong historical ties to Lord Lucan. The title was granted in 1776 to Charles Bingham, the governor of Connaught, whose residence now houses St Joseph’s Secondary School.

His grandson, George Bingham, the third earl of Lucan, was loathed for his mass evictions during the Famine, but George’s own son, the fourth earl, gave the town its best-known landmark, donating the family cricket pitch, now called the Mall, to the people of Castlebar.

Daly’s Hotel (subsequently the Imperial) is the Mall’s most historic building. It is where Michael Davitt, along with then owner James Daly, founded the Land League in 1879. Shuttered since 2009, the hotel is just one of many businesses to have closed, but the town boasts an impressive entrepreneurial spirit.

Dermot Fadden’s 6th Sense Global Designs menswear range is designed and distributed from Linenhall Street and has five standalone shops, in Limerick, Athlone, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Clonmel. Fadden plans to open his flagship shop in Castlebar alongside a restaurant that will be run by Ivan Carroll of the Bay Leaf Restaurant in Horkan’s Garden Centre.

Many of Castlebar’s retailers back Foras na Gaeilge’s Irish in Business support scheme (Sceim Tacaíochta Gnó), practising the cúpla focail, and this bit of blas somehow makes you feel more welcome.

€20 or less: Ann McMahon opened Cafe Rua, on New Antrim Street, 20 years ago. Her son Aran and daughter Colleen opened a second branch, incorporating a deli, in 2008. On its specials board you will find Irish beef stew and Castlemine Farm meatballs made from local lamb. There is also a Mayo meze board that offers cured meats, a home-made pate, local leaves and house brown bread with Cuinneog country butter. Rua Deli and Cafe, Spencer Street, 094-9286072, caferua.ie

€50 or less: Paraic Horkan’s family has traded in Castlebar since the 1820s, when his ancestors started a plumbing business. It was his grandmother Sarah who opened a greengrocer’s, selling plants. There are now branches of Horkans Garden Centre in Wicklow, Sligo, Galway and Castlebar. Horkan is a familiar face to gardening fans from Ireland AM. The hedgehog house pictured costs €34.99 and keeps the spiky creature safe from mowers. Horkans Garden Centre, Turlough, Castlebar, 094-903 1435, horkans.ie

€100 or less: A Stór is a ladies’ occasionwear shop run by the Heverin family, whose great-great-grandfather James Heverin first opened a drapery shop on Ellison Street in 1893, extending it into the site A Stór now occupies. A Stór opened in 2010 and sells dresses from €30 upwards, Pilgrim jewellery, bags and shoes. One of its better-known brands is Italian label Rinascimento; a simple dress from its basic collection costs €89.95. If you don’t find the footwear you’re looking for in A Stór, you’ll be pointed across the road to Parsons Shoes, a shop that’s been in business since 1927. A Stór, Ellison Street, 094-9044010

€500 or less: Mayo footballer Donal Vaughan and his sister Ailish run Vaughan Shoes, a family shoe business that bucked the recession, opening in Ballinrobe in 2006, Claremorris in 2008 and Castlebar in 2014. The store sells men’s, women’s and kid’s shoes, stocking brands such as Clarks, Echo, Amy Huberman, Lloyd and Pryce’s Tommy Bowe, and Base London. Women’s shoes account for 50 per cent of the take, with luxury leather brands Pedro Anton and Marco Moreo both selling well. The brogues pictured above cost €154.95. Vaughan Shoes, Market Street, 094-9021638, vaughanshoes.ie

€1,000 or less: A fashionable solid silver, gold-plated, double coin necklace from Mi Moneda costs from €200 (the one pictured costs about €550) from Egan Jewellers, run by father and son Eddie and Paul Egan on the site of the old gaol. A wrought-iron bedfrom shabby-chic emporium Rosewater Interiors, run by Vivienne Murray, a former member of the Brown Thomas display team, costs €500. Rosewater Interiors, Main Street, 094-9250505, rosewater.ie; Egan Jewellers, Ellison Street, 094-9022098, eganjewellers.ie

DOWN TIME: Indulge in a spicy hot chocolate, €2.50, from Helena Chocolates, on Cavendish Lane, a rich, warming confection that includes nutmeg, chilli, cloves and ginger; helenachocolates.ie. Brush up on your local history with a visit to Mayo Book Store, on Castle Street, a trove of books about Mayo and by Mayo-born authors; mayobooks.ie

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