‘It was hard enough the first time’: Clothes retailer mulls return to lockdown

‘I am an emotional person ... I couldn’t bear thought of being there when shutters came down again’

 Tom Monaghan (95) of Monaghans Cashmere, South Anne Street, Dublin: “I am an emotional person by any standards and I just couldn’t bear the thought of being there today when the shutters came down again,” he said. “It was hard enough the first time.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Tom Monaghan (95) of Monaghans Cashmere, South Anne Street, Dublin: “I am an emotional person by any standards and I just couldn’t bear the thought of being there today when the shutters came down again,” he said. “It was hard enough the first time.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Tom Monaghan was unable to hide his emotion when he contemplated the six-week closure of his shop, Monaghans Cashmere, on South Anne Street in Dublin city centre.

His voice cracked repeatedly as he explained why he could not go to work on the last day before lockdown.

“I am an emotional person by any standards and I just couldn’t bear the thought of being there today when the shutters came down again,” he said. “It was hard enough the first time.”

At 95, Mr Monaghan is almost certainly Ireland’s oldest shopkeeper. Four or five days a week since the early summer reopening, he has come to work in the shop he has loved since 1960, when he sold his first cashmere jumper for a fiver.

While the pandemic has hit almost every aspect of life hard and continues to wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods, Mr Monaghan was resolute on Wednesday morning.

‘Three great recessions’

“I lost an uncle to the Spanish Flu,” he told The Irish Times. “He was a very young man and my parents and my grandparents never really got over that. I have lived through a World War and TB and at least three great recessions, so I know we will get through this too. We will carry on no matter what happens.”

He said he wanted to acknowledge the “wonderful job” done by politicians and doctors in dealing with Covid-19, “and my sympathies go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to this terrible virus, but I am just so sad to be closing my shop for the second time. When we reopened during the summer I was like a young fella all over again, I was just so happy to be back.”

“I enjoy the camaraderie and the chat and some of the customers I have, I have had for more than 50 years. I am serving their children and their children’s children now.” Photograph: Alan Betson
“I enjoy the camaraderie and the chat and some of the customers I have, I have had for more than 50 years. I am serving their children and their children’s children now.” Photograph: Alan Betson

His daughter Suzanne, who runs the shop with him, has brought him in each morning and then home again each evening. In the hours in between he has spent his time in the back office taking calls and occasionally popping out to the shop floor when long-standing customers and old friends come in.

“It is not only about selling. It has never only been about sales,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the chat and some of the customers I have, I have had for more than 50 years. I am serving their children and their children’s children now.”

As to the future, he does not believe the six weeks of lockdown will fly. “Who knows where we are going to be in six weeks – or if we will be any better than we are today. I remember when I was in school we would have six weeks’ holidays and it seemed like an eternity – so I think six weeks is still such a long time.”

In the meantime, he said his business would have to rely on virtual trade.

Spending in Ireland

His daughter has played a key role in moving the business online and he appealed for people to continue to spend their money in Ireland across all channels in the weeks ahead. “People need to remember that every purchase made in Ireland now is a job saved.”

Monaghans Cashmere, South Anne Street, Dublin, open since 1960. File photograph: Google Street View

He stressed he had never been overly concerned about the impact Covid-19 might have on himself. “So long as my family is okay, I am not too worried, I have had a long life and I think I have a bit more left in me. I have lived for my business and I have loved it and I have loved meeting people from all the corners of the world.

“It is not all about the selling, it is about caring for people and recognising that no matter where we come from, we are all the same. No matter what happens that won’t change.”

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