COLUMN: Families at the heart of Naas trade

Robert Mulhern looks at long-standing family-run retailers in the town

Robert Mulhern

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Robert Mulhern

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mulhernrobert@hotmail.com

COLUMN: Families at the heart of Naas trade

Local traders, Larry Swan of Swans on the Green, and Pat Goulding of Goulding’s Hardware. Photo Tony Keane.

McHugh’s bar, Fox’s hotel, Donegan’s on the Newbridge Road, the former empire of Finan’s on the Fairgreen, Malone’s bakery...

Much of 2017 was spent mourning retailers that were once fixtures on Naas Main Street. 

But the planning permission and extension granted to Swans has given the local family run retail landscape a huge fillip at the start of 2018. 

It’s timely then to celebrate the family-run retailers (featuring more than one generation) that have forged and continue to forge the identity of Naas Main Street. 

Swans on the Green

Once, bags of spuds were stacked so generously around the front of the small grocer that the building resembled a bunker-like retail hideout that had been dropped out of the sky onto the Fairgreen. 

Inside opened into a cave of sweets anchored by big drums of cola cubes with sharp edges that would cut the mouth of you, and surely Larry couldn’t have then imagined a future backboned by mashed avocados and long black Americanos. 

Then, like now, Swans was an institution on the Naas retail landscape. But as the decades have passed, the business has grown to add Ronan and Paul and become an essential part of not only retail life, but social life, in the south end of the town. 

Goulding’s Hardware

Packaged with the feeling it’s always been there, this hardware store is well into its second generation as a family-run fixture on the main street. The arrival of new retail names like B&Q on the outskirts of town have failed to dial down the success of a premises that was once a national school known locally as the Green School. 

Pat’s renewal was predated by a period of service in the hardware department of Farrington’s Supermarket (latterly Superquinn) the site of which is also making a comeback.

Fleming’s

With such a large collection of brothers hurrying around with spare tubes and wheel spokes, this family business always felt like Naas’ answer to a mafia cycle store. The showroom always spilled gleaming Raleighs and Peugeots that we must have spent years looking at, if you added all the time. And if the Naas cycle lane proposal ever does come to pass, I'll add my name to their share price.

Kavanagh’s

Though not having accumulated the same years of combined family service as some of the other businesses on this list, the legacy of Kavanagh's success in recent years is a large extension to the rear of the premises and gratefully, the retention of the snug at the front entrance. 

I’ve yet to discover the identity of the original owner, but in this column’s ‘inherited' spirit there must have been countless occasions when the Farraghers have been mistakenly referred to as the Kavanaghs. At least that’s what some of my family always call them.

Alo Donegan’s

From this remove it feels kind of remarkable that two brothers, selling nigh-on identical electrical goods, and trading under the same surname, managed to establish long standing businesses in the town. Alo Donegan’s ceased trading last year. 

But the business of Ambrose and David Donegan endures on the town’s main street. In what must have been a homage to father and grandfather, Alo, a world record setting track cyclist, Donegan’s on Naas Main Street once did a neat turn in selling racing bikes. 

There’s little doubt that this was passed down from Alo senior who opened a bike shop when he stopped breaking world records. 

McCormack’s

Probably the first of the Naas family business genre to spring to mind because of the pub’s storied place in the local consciousness and its prominent position on the main street. 

I’d my first legal pint there, though not in the front bar. I first had to serve my time down the back and then graduate to the next stage. It must have been like that when the baton was handed from from Bill to Conor.

The Capri Grill

Probably, when they pulled out of the Mediterranean island which bears their business name, armed with their closely guarded recipe for chips, they never figured they’d be frying into a new millennium. 

What I want to know is whatever happened to cousin Tony, who went by the surname Izzi and packed in the chip frying business to play League of Ireland.

Richie Whelan’s Menswear

The shop that dresses Mick O’Dwyer… and every other middle-aged Naas male at one time or another. 

Before my own dress style evolved to include pointy brown shoes, I only visited Whelan’s to source tickets for Kildare games. 

Micko was then the manager and after seeing him decked out Whelans’ clobber for his recent documentary, it’s certain that his propensity to pull a hustle has never waned.

Robert Mulhern is a London based journalist contracted to RTE's The Documentary on One. To contact our columnist, email mulhernrobert@hotmail.com.