GERALD O’Brien will mark the end of an era when he retires from his menswear shop on Main St in Skibbereen, where his family have been in business for over 70 years.
It’s the second major West Cork business to announce its closure due to retirement in recent weeks, with The Southern Star reporting last week the closure of O’Neill’s Sport and Leisure in Clonakilty, which shut after 41 years.
Gerald also ran his thriving retail outlet for 41 years. His father, also Gerald, ran a pub & grocers at No 29 (now The Paragon) starting out in 1945, while his mother Treasa ran a drapery in what is now Eddie Ring’s barbers.
Gerald comes from a long line of entrepreneurs – his grandfather was the well-known bone-setter Mike O’Brien, who also had a pub in Ballydehob.
Learning the trade with Arnott’s in Dublin, Gerald opened his shop in 1977, living upstairs for a while before moving to Baltimore where he’s been for the past 23 years.
He married Liz 30 years ago, she has also been a familiar face in the shop which weathered two recessions, changes in currency and plenty of changes in fashion.
Gerald (64) says Skibbereen is as an excellent town to do business in. ‘It’s the shopping capital of West Cork,’ he claims.
Rates, however, he described as ‘horrendous’, while employment regulations for small businesses were also difficult, he said.
The father-of-two (Orla is a software engineer with EMC and Gerald is a metal and craft teacher in London) is currently running a closing down sale and will shut up shop in the coming weeks.
Negotiations are taking place, but the future of the premises, which is on the market, isn’t yet known.
Liz and Gerald say they’ll miss their lovely customers, but are looking forward to the freedom retirement will bring. Gerald admits he will enjoy having more time for fishing and sea angling.
Liz is looking forward to enjoying more time at home – as well, of course, to a well-earned holiday.