The passion with which John Gildea speaks about his family, his home, as well as his business in Kinnegad, makes one realise that these are the important things in life and are to be cherished.
1. When was the business established and were any previous generations involved? The late Pat Gildea and his wife Rita opened their pharmacy in Kinnegad in 1955, with their son John taking over the business in 1994.
2. Did the family live in Kinnegad for many years / where did they come from? Both of John’s parents, the late Pat and Rita, came from Sligo but John and four siblings were born and reared in Kinnegad. John tells us that his father used to stop off in Kinnegad during his trips to Dublin and spotting a niche for a pharmacy in Kinnegad, he decided to set up shop and home there.
3. Who are the family members working in the business now? John and his wife Orna work in the business as well as John’s sister-in-law Deirdre, who works in the office. John’s son Ruairí, who is in his last year in college studying to be a pharmacist, also helps out and has found it useful being able to work in the family business.
4. What does the business do? While the core business is a pharmacy, they share their location with a modern Primary Care Centre containing an array of HSE services and a busy medical practice, along with a beauticians, a dental surgery (www.kinnegaddental.ie, and an opticians practice (www.gildeasopticians.i), run by John’s brother David.
5. How has the business changed over the years? John tells us that their core business of knowing how to look after people has not changed, rather it continuously improves. However there have been massive changes to the business over the years and some major challenges also, being one of the few businesses left in the town of Kinnegad. For this, John is ever grateful to his dedicated and hard working staff of 30, and to his loyal customers who he says if it was not for them, they would not be able to survive for so long.
6. Plans for the future? John is delighted to be able to share that there are plans to expand the business. Gildea’s wanted to make sure that Kinnegad got a piece of the action and so they have tied up with the government initiative Sláintecare to offer more services. This also means they will recruit more staff in the area in the near future.
7. Any memorable moments through the years? While this past year has been the most challenging, John remarks that overseeing three building projects through the years were also fairly memorable.
8. In what way do you think you family business adds something special to Kinnegad? Gildea’s Pharmacy has been an intrinsic part of the community in Kinnegad and Killucan for almost 70 years and we have a long tradition of excellence behind us to live up to. I love the fact that long standing customers still refer to my late father, Paddy in the pharmacy.
It makes me proud to think we’re still doing something right. My mother, Rita is 90 years old but she still advises me on a weekly basis – you really have to listen to your mother! Despite having retired away from Kinnegad over 20 years ago (and still living on her own independently), she reads the Westmeath local papers from cover to cover every week and will normally be the one ringing me up to tell me things I have missed in the locality!
We are completely immersed in the local clubs and groups in the area and sponsor as many events as we can, as we believe such events are important in any community.
9. Pros and Cons of working with family in a business? John says that the main pros would be that you aren’t making decisions alone. “Having people around you that you trust and are honest with you improves the decisions you make. I have made dozens of mistakes since taking over the business in 1997, but I would have made way more if I didn’t have my wife Orna and my family around me to help.”
The cons; well anyone in a family business, be it a pharmacy or a farm, will know that we don’t punch a clock. This is not a 9 to 5 role – we stay until all our work is complete which can be challenging at times.
10. The last word: Apart from being very thankful to all their staff and customers through the years, John would like to add that we should all build on the positives and try to keep up the spirit of being kind and caring going forward.
“I think we need to be kind and to look after each other to get through the current times. Give the news headlines a miss now and then. The negativity that is out there is really adding to people’s anxiety. Eat properly, go for a walk along the canal and chat to your neighbour over the fence. The people in our community have a real, genuine, quiet goodness about them and that has never been as evident as during this last year. I’m certainly forever grateful that my folks set up home in Kinnegad 66 years ago – it’s been a fantastic place to grow up, run my business and rear my own family.“