Swarbrigg Shoes in Mullingar and Athlone have been keeping it in the family for 49 years now and with the continued help of loyal customers and staff, they hope to still be doing so for another 49 years! Topic caught up with Brian Swarbrigg last week, who took a few moments out during the set-up for re-opening this week, to tell us a bit more about their family business …
1. When was the business established and were there any previous generations involved?
Brian’s father Paddy was the first generation of Swarbriggs in Mullingar to open the business, opening the shoe shop in Mullingar in 1972, followed by the opening of the Athlone shoe shop in 1998.
2. Had the family lived in Mullingar for many years or where did they come from?
Paddy Swarbrigg came from Cootehill in Cavan and his wife Jackie came from Longford. They moved to Mullingar in the late 1960’s and set up the shop in 1972.
3. Who are the family members working in the business now?
Brian manages the businesses, and his sister Kate manages the office work. Paddy was in the shops until a few years ago, while Brian’s other brothers John and David, work elsewhere.
4. What does the business do?
Swarbriggs Shoes sell high quality ladies, gents and children’s shoes, including casual, sports and comfort shoes. They also have a range of matching handbags for special occassions.
5. How has business changed over the years?
Brian tells us that trends come and go every few years so there is regular change in shoe styles but the last year or so has seen an increase in the sale of comfort shoes, with the stilettoes taking a back shelf!
As far as the business end of things go, Brian shares that social media presence has made quite a positive difference to sales, especially in the past year however, he adds that while sales may be going very well online, Swarbriggs will continue to offer the personal touch by offering in-shop sales.
6. Plans for the future?
“First things first” – Brian tells us that getting open and running again next week is the main plan for the foreseeable future.
7. Any memorable moments through the years? (any faux pas)
To date, this year has probably been the most memorable for Brian and one he “won’t forget in a hurry”. Brian enjoys every day in the shop, especially the support and the banter with customers.
8. In what way do you think your family business adds something special to Mullingar?
Brian, like his father before him, firmly believes in supporting local and keeping business and money in the local economy. He tells us that Swarbriggs Shoes supports local charities and causes as much as possible and believes that family businesses are to be encouraged in any town.
9. Pros and Cons of working with family in a business?
It’s pros all the way for Brian as he tells us there are no real cons for him working with family. With a smile he tells us “you soon learn to wash off any disagreements, but these are very few in any case”.
10. The last word
Brian is happy to have the last word, to let us know that his father Paddy and all at Swarbrigg Shoes are very grateful to all their customers for their support and encouragement over the last 49 years, but especially in the last year, which he acknowledges was difficult for everyone. Brian closes by saying “we are also fortunate to have very loyal local based staff with us for many years in both Mullingar and Athlone, both great towns and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our shops again”.