The final touches are being added at the Douglas Village Shopping Centre as preparations continue ahead of the much-anticipated reopening of the centre and 13 of its stores.
The shopping centre is set to open on Thursday, marking over one year since a fire devastated businesses in the centre and the local community.
Shopping Centre Manager, Bartosz Mieszala said that there has been a lot of hard work and dedication involved in getting the centre up and running in time for the busy Christmas period.
“We’re very excited now and obviously we have waited a long time for everything to be ready,” he said.
“There has been a lot of work and preparations for the centre to reopen, particularly over the last couple of weeks.
“Everybody has been working around the clock in order to get this delivered on time and we have made some improvements, including some new Christmas decorations.”
Level 5 restrictions have forced all non-essential retailers within the shopping centre to remain closed for now, including Leonard's Hair and Beauty, who are set to reopen their salon in its original location following a temporary move.
“It will be great. We're looking forward to it, we just can’t wait to get up and going," said Leonard Higgins.
"The village has missed the whole centre and we’re looking forward to getting back."
Despite restrictions curtailing the reopening of some stores, customers can still visit 13 units within the centre which are deemed as essential businesses, as well as those who are offering take-away and click and collect options.
Speaking on the reopening, Dermot Hever, Store Manager at Tesco Douglas said staff are excited to welcome customers back.
“We are thrilled to reopen our store at Douglas Shopping Centre today. Reopening under Level 5 restrictions is certainly a very different event than we might have planned.
"I’m delighted to say we’ve been able to deliver a safe and easy experience for our returning customers.”
Mark Hayes from O’Brien’s Sandwich Café said that he feels “relieved” to finally be opening following the damage caused to his premises, which was in close proximity to the fire.
"I must commend and thank our colleagues who were temporarily re-deployed to our sister stores in Cork, and I know they’re all delighted to be back in the Douglas store serving the customers they know so well," he said.
A few stores, such as Maxi Zoo and some fashions retailers will not be returning to the shopping centre, however, the majority of businesses are set to reopen their doors as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Along with some of the original stores, customers can expect some new additions in the coming months.
“TK Maxx were preparing to open for a number of weeks but with Level 5, they had to change their plans, but they are going to be open as soon as possible,” said Mr Mieszala.
“There are a number of other units between fashion, homeware and other services that were also preparing and had to be postponed, but more units will re-open as the levels change.”
The Douglas Village Shopping Centre has been missed by locals who have been waiting in anticipation for the official reopening after over a year.
Councillor Mary Rose Desmond noted the excitement in the area ahead of the reopening and said that she hopes the local community will continue to show their support for the shopping centre over the Christmas period and beyond.
“Douglas has been through a lot especially now, while it is so difficult and so challenging for all retail and businesses at the moment, it’s great to have such a positive story and it gives hope to the Douglas area.
“It’s great to see them opening leading into the Christmas trading period and I know and hope and encourage people of the community to support them now that they’re open,” she said.
The Douglas Village Shopping Centre is set to reopen on Thursday, 12 November.
“Unfortunately, we won't be able to hug some of the regulars and we are obviously limited because of Covid-19 and we can’t do the grand opening we would like but when we can open the doors and allow everyone into the mall again, it will be a very fulfilling moment for us," said the manager of the shopping centre, Bartosz Mieszala.
"I would like to thank everybody involved in the project at every level for their hard work. I also want to thank all of the people in the local area. Their patience and understanding and support has been amazing,” he added.