FROM a very young age, Ellen Collins was always interested in retail.
As a result, it was no surprise to many that she ended up running her own shop for an amazing 58 years, serving the people of Newcestown for their grocery needs and newspapers, including The Southern Star, which she sold for many years.
Sadly, Ellen served her last customer last Saturday week after the 86-year-old mother of 12 and grandmother of 30 decided to retire and close the business she so fondly loved – which was the only shop in the village.
‘I was always playing shop when I was younger and I opened the shop with my husband Richie two years after we married and I’ve loved the experience,’ Ellen told The Southern Star.
‘I will miss the interaction and conversation with my customers and neighbours but I will take every day as it comes now in my retirement.’
In 1970 she built a new shop and hers was one of the first self-service shops in Cork. Ellen said she would spend many a Saturday night measuring tea and sugar back in the day and would have to go to Mass in Bandon as she was so busy.
It was testament to Ellen’s character that customers, neighbours, friends and family turned up in their droves last Saturday to mark Ellen’s retirement from the retail trade. Over cups of teas and plenty of cakes, it was standing room only in the shop and throughout the house as people chatted and remembered the old times.
A flood of well-wishers called throughout the day to wish Ellen all the best in her retirement and there was no shortage of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to capture the poignant occasion. Pupils from the local national school also signed a huge retirement card for her and there was also a placard listing the numerous assistants who worked with Ellen in the shop down through the years.
One local customer, Mary Kelleher, who works in the retail trade herself, even felt compelled to mark the occasion by dedicating a moving poem to Ellen on her retirement.
In her dedication, Mary said Ellen was much more than a shopkeeper and that she was an integral part of the community in Newcestown.
‘You were the local news reporter, a wedding, a christening, a funeral, a match lost or won, you kept us in touch with it all. Oh Mrs Collins ,would you have the key of the hall?’
There’s no doubt the closing of Collin’s shop will leave a void in the community in Newcestown and it will be missed by many.
We here in The Southern Star would also like to wish Ellen well in her retirement.