ENNIS is mourning the loss of one of the town’s best known businessmen, Jimmy Brohan, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday. His hardware shop on Parnell Street was an institution and attracted customers from Clare and across Ireland.
In June 2011, Mr Brohan spoke to The Clare People’s Ronan Judge about his life in business. The interview is re-printed here.
IN nearly 50 years working at the heart of Ennis, Jimmy Brohan has seen good and bad times, but the well known hardware shop owner has no doubt that the current recession has made it tougher than ever for businesses to survive.
A native of Ruan, Jimmy started out at John Roughan’s store just off O’Connell Square in 1963.
He worked there for 20 years before leasing and eventually buying the premises in the mid-eighties.
An incident in the year 2000 damaged the building and forced the relocation of Brohans to Parnell Street.
Jimmy recalls, “All I can say is that the place in the square was 10 times better. We were working in pounds. It was a smaller place, easier to run. Better times. But here now with rent, rates and the whole lot, it’s just impossible to survive. Just nearly impossible”
Customers too are growing more reluctant to spend money, according to Jimmy.
He says, “Last year was middling but this year is very bad. People just don’t seem to have money. People that would sometimes spend €40 would only spend €10. They just haven’t the money to spend. They buy cheaper stuff and the better quality stuff won’t sell as well. They will just do with the cheaper stuff because they just don’t have the money”
Jimmy feels that the cost of parking in the town centre is also an issue. He explains, “People who are only in town for 10 minutes to shop are paying €1.30. The parking isn’t as bad now because there aren’t as many people around. They (the charges) are a problem. A lot of people complain”.
Having experienced plenty of ups and downs, Jimmy believes that good customer service is key to running a successful business.
He says, “One secret is that you have to be nice to people. If you’re nice to people and treat them right. They will come back to you. We have people coming to us since I started and now their family are coming (to us)”.
A family run business, Brohans is known for having a wide collection of stock.
Jimmy says, “People still come to me with the old spraying cans, copper spraying cans that the farmers would use. They are gone now with the last 30 years. They weren’t made for 30 years or more but I still have bits and piece for those. That’s just one item. There would lots of other bits and pieces that people come to us looking for. I don’t care how old it is, I love to have it”.
Jimmy typically starts work at 8am, arranging goods outside the shop front. It’s a job he takes pride in.
He says, “It’s good for the street. Once it’s nice and tidy and not all over the place. It’s not an eyesore on the street. It looks well. Since I started in the square in ’63, we always had the stuff hanging outside the door and out on the footpath”.
Times maybe tough, but Jimmy believes it is more important than ever for new businesses to be encouraged.
He says, “If they only sold periwinkles, it’s better to have a door open. The worst thing you can have is to have shops closed”.