On the 16th of March we celebrate five years in business. Having signed the lease on this derelict shop in the middle of February 2014, a crew of friends and family set to work cleaning, painting and putting up shelves. It was no easy task as the shop had been standing empty for a number of years, but thanks to my exquisite skills in supervising the people who offered to help, and my attention to detail in pointing out where “you missed a bit” , by the middle of March it became clear that the goal for opening on St. Patrick’s day was going to be achieved.
The truth is, I was ready to open before March 16th, the stock had arrived, the shop was painted, the shelves were up, but as my dream was coming together, somewhere in the excitement, my confidence began to disappear – I lost my nerve. I had spent 3 years planning for a gift shop on The Quay in Waterford. Three years convinced I had a brilliant idea that would work as a business in the midst of brutal recession. I had sunk thousands of euros into this great idea, and not once did it cross my mind that it wouldn’t work. But on the last day of painting, when all my helpers had left, and I was alone putting the stock on the shelves a thought occurred to me – “what if this is a really bad idea? – what if I’ve wasted all this money? – what if I find myself lumbered with a shop lease I can’t pay for and thousands of leprechaun keyrings that no-one wants to buy?” So in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s day I came up with excuse after excuse as to why today wasn’t the day to open the doors, avoiding judgement day.
The day before St. Patrick’s Day, still not open, I went to the local stationary shop to buy some essentials, the lady serving me asked if I was open yet. As it happens the cash register I had wasn’t working, so I informed her of my perfect valid excuse as to why I wouldn’t be open until after St. Patrick’s day. She looked at me aghast. “Are you MAD?” she asked, “It will be your busiest day of the year” I think she knew an excuse when she heard one because she instructed me to wait where I was and went into her back room, returning a few minutes later with a cash box and a receipt book. Handing them to me she said simply, but sternly
“Now – go and open your shop”: So I did.
And here we are, half a decade later. My badly researched, barely planned idea is now an established chapter in the life of this building on The Quay. In the picture below you can see the hanging sign in the bottom left hand corner showing 128 The Quay to be the home of Kirwans Provision Market. That picture was taken in 1890, since then I know this shop has been a Jewellers, a plumbing supply shop, an estate agent and now, 129 years later, my sign hangs from the very same pole.
The biggest surprise for me when I opened the doors 5 years ago, was not so much that I was right, and there was a market for souvenirs and gifts on The Quay, it was that the people of Waterford were so genuinely supportive. My first few weeks of being opened were filled with a stream of local people, complete strangers to me, coming in to wish me luck – and they didn’t stop there – they bought something to show their support, I even had three complete strangers give me a handsel for luck.
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, and as we head into Spring 2019, I look back on the last five years and realise how lucky I’ve been. I get to hear the stories of people from all over the world. I get to meet people who are on the adventure of a lifetime. I get to make my living doing something I love.
So to every single one of you who has crossed the threshold of 128 The Quay, and everyone who has bought online – Thank you very, very much. Here’s to the next five years.