By Claire Corrigan
Members of the Nally family made heartfelt tributes to their customers on Friday of this week when Topic spoke with them to celebrate 50 years of Rochforts Superstore.
“Myself and Lucy (Harris) collected An Post free postcards from one of the postmen and wrote postcards every day to the customers that couldn’t come in and then we got cards back from them telling us they were OK.”
An emotional Avril Kelly said holding back the tears. “That meant a lot to us. Lucy would come in every day with a new list to send postcards to all the customers that we missed so much. Other people came in who work for Meals on Wheels and we would ask them about our customers and they would let us know they were fine and they had got our cards. It actually kept us going too because we really missed people and you were constantly hoping they were alright and safe.” said a tearful Avril.
Avril and Tomas worked throughout the lockdown along with a number of staff members and it was clear that the customers were never far from their thoughts. “When you are serving people, you get to know and you think ‘That could be my mam and dad’ and you want to make sure they are not going home out the country with no call credit or things they need. We missed them during the lockdown and are so grateful that they are safe and well. They missed us too. That little hello every week really can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
Avril said that for many people, the lockdown meant extended periods of isolation. “Some people just come in to have a little chat. It really is the little things and only takes a couple of seconds. You can give someone such a lift.”
Avril spoke of how the shop, which has a staff of 20, has changed down the years. “The shop structure itself has changed with counters at various different places and we have never been afraid to change anything that wasn’t working. Tomas, in particular, would be very good at visualising things. We pride ourselves on having everything that people need. It’s that ‘one stop shop’ that we are trying to achieve. We do try and go the extra mile for our customers, for example, if someone comes up to buy a card we say to them ‘Do you have a stamp?’”she smiled.
Back in 1970, Tommy Nally Snr. purchased the tiny premises on Dominick Street with his wife Sheila. “I had to buy out the lease. An aunt of mine, my mother’s sister Kattie Mahon, was paying a certain amount a year. She decided if I could buy out the lease, I could leave her free of rent which happened but I had to borrow a lot of money to buy out the lease. ”
Before that Tommy spent a number of years managing Gunning’s in Rathconrath and before that worked in Dinny Daly’s wholesale retail store where Kilroy’s is now situated.
The original shop was a small premises behind the current wall at the front of the shop. “There was a small sweet shop with a restaurant behind that and we used to do 20 or 30 breakfasts at a time on fair days. Katty was from the country so all the people would come in to see her. She was a lovely person. We bought the premises beside us in around 1975 and Mick Casey did the construction work. The whole place is on pillars now where walls were taken out. The part of the shop that is the music store was belonging to a dentist, PM O’Neill and I actually have his dentist chair upstairs.”
Pretty soon the store started selling toys, gifts, greeting cards, souvenirs and groceries.
The whole family grew up working in the shop and providing a cheery wave and kind word to customers. “Our whole family grew up here. When I was 18 I went to college to do commerce in Galway and when I got back, I kind of got stuck into the shop and renovated the upstairs section.” explained Tomás, who also studied nursing. “My sisters and I all grew up in the shop -every Saturday and Sunday you were working in the shop.”
The music shop is around 12 years old at this stage. “All the bands come into the music store, The Academic, Fallen Lights, all the main bands come in. We expanded that and we put the music school upstairs four years ago but actually that has changed hands now and the girls are running that independently and we’re not involved in that.”
Four Star Pizza opened up three years ago in May and has been a roaring success ever since. Of course, Rochfort’s is synonymous with great ice-cream and when Maple Moose (about ten years ago), the store became the first port of call for those who wished to cool down on a hot day and sells waffles, milkshakes, crepes as well as ice cream. “We are always trying to expand and do new things and be creative. If you stop at all you’re left behind.”
The front of the shop received a make over earlier this year and the family are planning to erect a clock above the door in honour of the shop’s special birthday. “The biggest thing is that people continue to go to their local shop and even if they don’t have the item they want in stock, order if from the shop- don’t just buy it online because if you buy it online you provide nothing for your community.”
“We have a little bit of everything and if we don’t have it, we can get it in. People have been very good to us coming in down through the years and we try and be nice to them and hopefully most people think we provide a good service-that’s why people keep coming back. We really want to thank the local community for all the support because we wouldn’t be here 50 years later only for them. We have had fantastic staff through the years and still do. Lucy Harris is here 46 years and is part of the family and Nicole Milmoe, and a few others who have just started and then all the Four Star crew who are great craic.”
Tomas added. “Our motto is ‘If we haven’t got it, you don’t need it.”