Mike Mc Grath and Noreen Furey operate their businesses in close proximity to the Ennis Market Building. One runs a lively fine food delicatessen while the other manages an industrious motor tyre outlet. Safeway Tyres and Food Heaven, respectively. Despite functioning in different sectors, both business owners have shared similar experiences over the last three years in respect to the state-of-the-art Market Structure.
During the construction period, both Mike and Noreen put their heads together in an effort to vocalise the concerns felt by local business owners in relation to a loss of parking, jobs, financial implications and the sterility of a once vibrant social hub. Mike concedes, “It nearly closed us down as customers were no longer coming into the market. They just stayed away from the area. In my business, tyres last on average for two years. Invariably, I’ve lost that customer for two years, I’ve broken their habit. With food shops you might be in there several times per month. There is continuity in that. I need the same continuity but when you break it over three or six months, you’ve lost that person for the next two years in the hope that the customer may or may not come back.”
Noreen shared similar sentiments at the time, feeling the building lacked foresight, “With any business you would have had a feasibility and marketing plan and we don’t seem to ever have had one, for the building. What was the point of building it? It was built for the purpose of an indoor market but that hasn’t happened. The free traders didn’t want to move in there. It seems there was never a plan, you would never open a business without having a plan.”
Mike recalls the only form of contact from the council coming in the form of design plans, however he felt that any constructive feedback fell on deaf ears at New Road. He feels that the design failed to consider the invariable Irish elements, “we said it would have a terrible draught. Now we have sheets of timber out there. We said the wind blows in one side and out the other side, it’s going to make it very cold. Everybody that you would talk to traders or otherwise would say the same thing, that a gale blows through it. Not great for market stalls.”
Frustrations have turned to bitter disappointment for Noreen at Food Heaven, despite her proactivity in establishing a group for local business owners concerning information relating to the vacant development. The council appear uncommitted in her eyes, feigning interest intermittently. The group includes businesses as far as Barrack Street and Parnell Street, all of which were directly affected by the closure of one of the main thoroughfares into the town centre for a total of 16 weeks.
Speaking of her self-appointed administrative duties, “I don’t want to go too negative because it is too tiring. It seems you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I always feel disappointed and what they do then is turn the tables and say why don’t you get involved. We were involved for two years, giving up several hours from our businesses.”
As a final note both business owners shared similar feelings on the proposed future of the building with Noreen chiming in first with the suggestion, “It’s a shame because we are the people who had to live through it and we have to live with 50 percent less parking. I would like to see it knocked and have more parking.”
Mike similarly proposed the use of dynamite or Semtex, as a light-hearted smile swept across his face.
Noreen of Food Heaven concluded our investigation with some final thoughts on the overall project, “We attended one of the municipal meeting and were asked did we not see that the building was for the greater good? I said no. I don’t know where the greater good is and it has been spoken about for a long time. There is no greater good now and don’t know when there will be.”