June 29th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Some of the West Cork-based business people encouraging people to shop locally after the lockdown. From left: Eddie Tolocka of E-PC Computers, Skibbereen; Nada Borovina of Jake’s Cakes, Bandon; Hal McElroy of the Trident Hotel, Kinsale; Eileen Walsh of Illusions Boutique in Dunmanway and Padraig Sheehy of Tom Sheehy’s in Clonakilty. (Photos: Anne Minihane, Denis Boyle & Andy Gibson)

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West Cork business people who closed their doors during the March shutdown have issued a heartfelt appeal for local support if they are to survive.

In a sentiment echoed in every premises in the region, Sandra Gallagher, chairperson of Skibbereen and District Chamber of Commerce, told The Southern Star: ‘Now more than ever we need local people to shop locally.’

Already, there has been a scattering of Covid-19 related closures locally with cafés and restaurants being the worst hit. Dillon’s in Timoleague, along with Bantry cafés, Organico and DeBarra’s, have closed with many other eateries changing their business models in a bid to survive.

However, one of the most encouraging features of the lockdown has been the willingness of consumers to shop local.

Diarmaid Murphy, chairman of Bantry Business Association, described this new spending trend as being ‘hugely significant.’ They believe it demonstrates consumers’ understanding of how desperate the situation has become for local shops and businesses.

Both Sandra and Diarmaid claim that without the ongoing support of the community, local businesses – and the livelihoods they sustain – would be at risk.

‘Of course, the hardest hit are the hairdressers, beauticians and publicans, all of whom will be the last to open up … but they have not been forgotten. They too will be able to draw on the support of the Chamber as well as their loyal customers when everything is fully reopened.’

In support of the economic challenges ahead, The Southern Star launched its own ‘Support West Cork - Shop Local’ campaign recently including newspaper and digital advertising, billboards in key towns across West Cork and soon the launch of a brand new online directory for local businesses and tourism.

Sean Casey, the owner of Bantry Tyres, which employs 28 people between its Bantry and Skibbereen branches, said: ‘Local people have within their power the potential to protect local jobs, and their local economy. That might sound simplistic to some, but it’s the reality of the situation.’

Eddie Tolocka of E-PC Computers in Skibbereen said: ‘It is up to local people to keep local businesses alive. It’s important that we all support each other – not just the shops and the businesses but the community itself.’

Hal McElroy, general manager of the Trident Hotel in Kinsale, said: ‘We are delighted that the opening of hotels has been brought forward. We are ready to welcome our returning guests, and are thrilled to be able to open our doors to the people of Kinsale.’

Sorcha Sheehy of Tom Sheehy’s in Clonakilty said: ‘Everyone knows we have a fantastic town and a fantastic community and I have no doubt that everyone will be nothing but supportive of the new shop local campaign.’

Eileen Walsh, Illusions Boutique in Dunmanway said that people had been absolutely fantastic: ‘It gives me hope for the future.’

Tim McCarthy of Jake’s Cakes, Restaurant and Bakery, in Bandon added: ‘The vast majority of people can’t wait to come back to the restaurant. They are our loyal customers, and we will be delighted to see them back.’

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