Shoptalk: bespoke personalised service
Are you being served? The column that looks at stock, style and service in shops around Ireland
Kevin McAllister outside his family’s shop on West Street, Drogheda. Photograph: Jenny Matthews
The McAllister family has been selling fuses, valve radios, wet-cell batteries, etc to Drogheda folk since 1942 when rural electrification first created a demand. They are still at it, though now selling the more newfangled items. The shop on West Street used to stay open late on dance nights, so that people could walk across from the Abbey Ballroom to buy 78s or LPs of the music they had just jived to.
Weirdly, record players are almost as popular again now, with two whole shelves at Kevin McAllister given over to different retro models. The shop has largely remained unchanged except for the repair benches and workshop which have been replaced with shelves of devices we’ve electrified in the intervening 60 years – mixers, irons, carving knives, fires, cookers.
“It’s not that people no longer wish to get things repaired,” says Kevin McAllister, “but that no one is willing to repair them.” Witnessing McAllister on the shop floor makes clear how he competes with the five electrical warehouse superstores on the edge of town: one minute he’s reassuring a frazzled young mother desperate to know if her smoke alarm still works, next he’s explaining to a business man how slow cookers work while gently coaxing an elderly woman to get her vintage three-bar heater serviced by an electrician rather than rewiring it herself.
This type of bespoke personalised service which we are now driving out to the ring road superstores to avoid, will probably come at a premium in the future.
That said, in Drogheda there are definite benefits to heading towards the ring roads, principle among them is the Brown Hound Bakery, tucked away in a nondescript housing estate on the outskirts. This New York-inspired wonderland of lattice crust pies and pecan nut concoctions in gorgeous glass cloches surrounded by weird taxidermy is one of Ireland’s three best bakeries. (The other two are Petit Delice in Cahersiveen and Killarney, and Bia Bia in Kenmare.)
The owners, Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz, also own the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill a few doors down, which has foodies jittering at its vibrant cooking and laidback American vibe. The wall of unusual wines is what first strikes you in the restaurant – the most intriguing of which are sourced by Quintessential Wines, a boutique importer with a tiny shop on the Dublin Road leading back into Drogheda.
They specialise in organic and biodynamic wines made without sulphates, by small-scale wine producers who are returning to medieval methods. If this retro movement reaches its logical conclusion McAllisters will be back selling wet-cell batteries before too long.
Brown Hound Bakery: glasgow-diaz.com
Kevin McAllister Electrical, 88 West Street, Drogheda, tel: 041-983 8505