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THE Country Store in Broadford celebrated three years in business on Tuesday this week. The milestone took on added significance, according to proprietor Karen O’Connor, who reflected on the last year and a half of operating a business in rural Clare during a pandemic.

Having experienced continued growth in the business up until March of last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic Karen saw her staff base fall from 26 down to 16. This has increased again to 24 and the south-east Clare businesswoman is proud to note that at no point did The Country Store rely on Government supports to employ their staff. “We survived on our own,” says Karen.

“When the pandemic hit, I didn’t think I’d see the end of last year but thankfully it didn’t work out that way,” she tells The Clare Echo. “It’s been really good. The first part of lockdown was the scary time and we followed each protocol as needed. In January this year when we were up to 8,000 cases per day, that was a difficult time. You just felt you can’t have people in the shop. Thankfully I had invested in a hatch window and I ran the business from the hatch for those couple of weeks and we did a lot of home deliveries. A lot of people in the area are elderly and we would have received calls from their family to supply them with dinners.”

With the exception of the café, The Country Store is now operating as usual with the additional use of the hatch – which Karen says helps to maintain a safe shopping experience for customers – however she is currently working with Des Kingston Design to create a permanent outdoor area starting in September, linking the café to outside.

Karen explains that Broadford as a community has been very resourceful during the last 18 months and the local hurling and camogie clubs have been integral in reminding people that the community has The Country Store to lean on. She adds that she has felt the same support from the management of 12 O’Clock Hills and the newly-opened Kilbane Glamping, which has been a huge hit with tourists.

“The general vibe is appreciation for The Country Store because it’s the hub where people can still feel normal and meet people. With both pubs back open again it also gives people in the area an opportunity to socialise slowly again.”

The Country Store supplies the community with services including Lotto, solid fuels, diesel, green diesel and kerosene, freshly baked goods are made daily, homemade tarts and cakes, and wines.

And despite the local post office closing recently, The Country Store has been designated as a Post Point, which is a subsidiary offering where people can avail of some An Post services. The post box was moved to The Country Store and next week people will be able to come in and send parcels, get stamps, and pay their television licence and some utility bills through the payzone.

On marking three years, Sixmilebridge business Bits, Bobs N’Balloons were enlisted to decorate The Country Store while customers were supplied with complimentary cones, slushies, balloons and bubbles for the kids, along with complimentary coffees and homemade tray bakes and queen cakes while a raffle with great prizes takes place Friday.

Karen adds on the business’s success, “To achieve three years with 18 months in a pandemic and lockdown, we’re proud to provide services to the area and it’s down to local customers, staff and friends that made sure this day has happened. I look forward to many more to come.”

The Country Store in Broadford is open Monday-Friday 7am-7pm; Saturday 8am-6:30pm; and Sunday 8am-4:30pm.

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