by Ronan Casey
Mullingar’s reputation as a music town has always been a huge source of pride. In recent years, many major stars have lit up the world stage, including One Directioner Niall Horan, music mogul Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin, operatic stars Ailish Tynan and Emmett Cahill, rock groups White Chalk, The Blizzards, Cronin and The Academic, country stars Robert Mizzell and Chris Loughrey, West End musical star Mark Irwin and many more. And let us not not forget Foster & Allen and the late Joe Dolan.
However, if you want to buy any of their music in their hometown, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere selling it.
On Sunday, the town’s last stand-alone music store, Golden Discs, closed down, without warning and with the loss of four jobs. The store had been trading at the Harbour Place Shopping Centre since the centre opened in 1997 but was deemed “no longer commercially viable” by its owners.
Regular shoppers were quietly informed by staff at the weekend that this would be their last chance to buy music locally as the shop was closing down at 6pm on Sunday, January 25. No formal notification or notice was given; there was no clearance sale or official announcement. Even management at the shopping centre were taken aback.
On Monday, the shutters were down as staff packed up the goods for transfer to another branch. One member said he only found out about the closure on Wednesday last.
Golden Discs managing director Stephen Fitzgerald told Topic: “Trading in the scheme has deteriorated over the past number of years and the store is no longer commercially viable. We have been in discussion with the landlords’ representatives for considerable time on this.”
He thanked “all of our customers in Mullingar for their support and patronage over the years” and confimed that one of the jobs lost is a full-time position and that gift vouchers will be honoured in all Golden Discs stores nationwide. Athlone Town Centre is the nearest branch to Mullingar.
Manager of the Harbour Place Shopping Centre, Denis Hogan, said they were “taken aback” at the sudden closure of the music and DVD shop.
“It has been a mainstay here since 1997 and we understood they were doing well, so it’s a surprise,” he told Topic.
Established in 1962 on Dublin’s Tara Street, Golden Discs is Ireland’s oldest and largest music specialist, with over 15 stores nationwide.
The arrival of the digital formats such as the MP3s in the early 2000’s were game-changers for the music retail industry as CD and DVD sales nose-dived and one-by-one music retailers closed, but Golden Discs held firm.
The chain went into examinership in 2009 with debts approaching €12m but it returned a €200,000 profit in 2013.
By June 2014, showed turnover grown by 40pc and six new stores saw numbers employed increase by 25pc, bringing its total workforce to 100.
There were five music retailers in Mullingar in the early 2000’s. Now, local music fans can only buy a limited selection of chart titles in Xtravision and Tesco.
A regular shopper there was Ciaran Whyte from Woodlawns. He said his thoughts were with the staff losing their jobs, and he was saddened and shocked there is now no music store in Mullingar.
“I was extremely shocked. To tell you the truth, I can’t understand how it didn’t survive in a town of this size and it being the only one open to us.” He thinks downloading and digital formats are to blame, but added music shops have a lot more to offer.
“Where do we go to take time out to browse and chill? Where do we go for a CD? Where do we go for stuff that’s not readily available online such as our local country ’n Irish music? It’s certainly left an empty hole in leisure time for a lot of music fans in the town. For many folks the record shop is the mainstay to a Saturday afternoon relaxation.”
Another regular was Peter Gilleran from the Green Road. “Isn’t it terrible for a town that prides itself as such a home of music that we don’t have a proper music venue or a music shop!” he commented.
John Nooney from Lakepoint said he and his family bought stuff there all the time. “Only recently my kids bought the Ed Sheeran album. We also bought DVDs there too. I never thought. I would come to pass that there would be no music shop in Mullingar – a real dedicated music shop. Tesco and Xtravision don’t sell a wide selection. It’s a sad day for Mullingar, a town full of music. Where are people going to go now? We had Grahams, Tupelo, Heartbeat City etc. all supporting local musicians and all gone.”
by Ronan Casey