Phase two of the Government’s roadmap for reopening society and business has seen the reopening of many more Cork businesses.
Phase one of the plan saw the opening of hardware stores, garden centres, office supplies stores, electrical stores, car and bike sales and repair stores, opticians, and the return of construction on May 18.
Many Cork businesses, including McQuillan Tools, Hanleys Garden Centre, John Daly Opticians, O’Callaghan’s Expert Electrical, The Bike Shed, Houston Office Supplies and O’Flynn Group, have since been enjoying their return to trading.
Today, a large number of non-essential businesses will reopen their doors under what is the new norm and welcome both loyal and new customers.
The Government guidelines for phase two of the roadmap advises that small non-essential retailers may reopen from today but opening times and modes of operation may vary.
Larger retail stores that have street entrances will also be allowed to open from today.
Cork business owners have been working hard in preparation for reopening after months of being shut.
Some of those businesses have shared the measures that have been taken in order to reopen safely in line with guidelines, the losses experienced in the current climate and how their business has adapted in line with what has now become the standard and their plan of action going forward.
Unbound is a local quirky gift shop in Cork city with a strong emphasis on sustainable, fair trade and positive products.
The store has been shut since March 21 and is reopening today after implementing a one-way system throughout the store, limiting the number of customers permitted at any one given time, allowing spacing of fixtures and putting hand sanitising and perspex screens in place.
Owner of the store, Evanne O’Caoimh said that she is following current guidelines and continually risk assessing and willing to adapt to best practices over the coming months.
“The shop is very small and we like to be friendly and welcoming so, along with signage, are hoping to be able to manage numbers by vocally encouraging customers to self regulate their distancing and keeping count ourselves,” she said.
All staff have been kept on the books and the store will reopen with its three staff members and one volunteer ready to keep trade running safely and professionally.
She said that she has no idea whether the store will be busy or very quiet and has prepared for both outcomes ahead of reopening after months of limited income from website trading only.
“Cash flow has been critical. We have had to pay suppliers for the stock we have and not yet sold plus then the expense of all the new signage, sneeze screens, cleaning products. Restart grants haven't been confirmed or paid yet so really scraping the bottom of all cash advances.
“We have a focus on sustainability and gifts which are unusual so we are hoping that the change in sentiment over this time might serve us in the coming months.” Ms O’Caoimh purchases from suppliers she believes in, who, where possible, are also local or Irish suppliers and suppliers who are not on the high street and have interesting designs or concepts.
“We collaborate with initiatives like Neighbourfood supplying household goods and are always looking for ways to keep the business alive and changing in order to keep the presence on the high street.
“We travel to London, Paris and Frankfurt to get ideas and source products, often returning to find an Irish or Cork producer.
Unbound works with bestseller Hanna’s Bee-Wraps, local artist Corkidoodledo, La Bougie candles, and Badly Made Books, among others.
She said that Cork people are supportive of their native brands and that buying from smaller suppliers is more ethical as they produce smaller batches and are more transparent with their process and materials used in their product.
The store will be open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm to 6pm on Sunday.
Fitzgerald Menswear on Patrick Street has traded through world wars, revolutions and previous pandemics in its 160 years in the city.
The store reopens at 10am today after almost 12 weeks of being closed due to Covid-19.
Managing Director of Fitzgerald Menswear, Eddie Mullins, has been preparing the store for today’s reopening over the last number of weeks, working with external companies to install sanitising stations, signage and have the shop deep cleansed from top to bottom.
A one-way system has been put in place upon entering and exiting the store, a perspex screen has been installed at the counter and gloves and masks will be provided to customers.
Mr Mullins said that the cost of implementing the new measures required in order to reopen has “run into several thousands of euro” which he said is an investment the business was “happy to make” in order to adhere to the guidelines set out by the Government.
He said that he has been “overwhelmed” with the amount of positive messages of support from loyal customers.
The store’s 10 staff members, including tailors and weekend staff, will all be retained in employment upon reopening. Private in-store appointments will be available and a nationwide delivery service offered.
Mr Mullins said that although there is an apprehensiveness that surrounds reopening in the current climate, that Fitzgerald Menswear will overcome the challenge.
“Naturally, we are apprehensive about reopening since this is probably the longest period of time the shop has been closed in it’s 160 year history.
“We know we will overcome this challenge too and look forward to being of service to the great people of Cork for many years to come,” he said.
Family-run music store on Oliver Plunkett Street, Pro Musica, shut its doors back in March and has had to “reorganise the shop completely” in order to reopen today.
Owner of the music store which has been trading since 1980, Eileen Madden, said she has never before in 40 years of business “been through such a weird and overwhelming time”.
The store which sells a variety of different instruments and DJ and production equipment, spans over two floors and offers the country’s largest selection of music books.
Physical distancing will be adhered to in store and sanitation units, perspex screens, signage has been put in place and the store has been deep cleaned.
Staff members have undergone induction training regarding health and safety and social distancing to ensure strict adherence to the business’ response plan.
Ms Madden said she will be “keeping a strict eye on everyone to ensure complacency” upon reopening.
Initially, customers will be served at the entrance, and no more than six to seven people will be allowed in the shop at any given time thereafter.
In order to keep on top of business, Pro Musica continued to trade online and through telesales but the company’s “turnover was slashed” and has had to “keep outgoings as low as possible”.
“The saving grace is that I own the building, therefore I don’t have any rent. I’d dread to think how we would manage if I had that scenario,” Ms Madden said.
The expenses of reopening has cost Ms Madden “about €2,700 and mounting”.
Ms Madden has a team of seven full time staff members and four part time staff, with some staff who had to be put on temporary lay-off being phased back from today.
“Overall, this has been a nightmare and an extremely stressful worrying and trying time. I hope we will all be okay after this and please God there won’t be another wave. I’m here since 1980 and I have never been through such a weird overwhelming time,” she said.
Neville Jewellers has three stores in Cork, in Wilton Shopping Centre, Blackpool Shopping Centre, and its stand-alone store on Winthrop Street.
Its Winthrop Street store is reopening today and will be followed with the reopening of the stores in Wilton and Blackpool on June 15.
All three Cork stores and its Limerick store closed their doors almost 12 weeks ago and Managing Director John Neville said that the personal nature of his business means that the Government and HSE regulations have been taken “very much to heart” ahead of reopening.
Clear screen barriers on all counters and till points have been put in place and sanitising stations will be at both the entrance and at counter points which Neville Jewellers has worked with local Cork Northside firms Glass Ltd and Hacketts to put in place.
Customers are invited to try on jewellery which will be sterilised and staff will wear masks, visors and gloves.
Mr Neville said that despite the many in-house changes that have had to be made to his stores, that customers will receive the same “exceptional service” for which Neville Jewellers has “become renowned for”.
“Staff are looking forward to reconnecting with our clients, many of whom we have built wonderful relationships over the years,” he said.
Mr Neville said that he looks forward to welcoming couples back into his stores after website activity during lockdown proved that “romance still blossomed”.
“We look forward to welcoming couples in store. It's a privilege to be able to be part of some very special moments.,” he said.
Neville Jewellers has improved its online efforts since the closure of its stores and is now building a new website and delivery options offering same day delivery for clients.
Mr Neville said he will be taking “every valuable member” of the team back on upon reopening.
“As a small family business our team is a collection of enthusiastic, highly skilled people that we have got to know over decades and we consider these people as friends.
“We have been in constant communication with the entire team over this difficult time ready to help one another or just see how we are doing. We count ourselves lucky to be part of this amazing bunch of people.
“We will have the manager in each store fully trained on how to manage the throughput of the store. In our larger stores we will have a dedicated exit and entry, with the correct social spacing in the store itself.
“We are lucky in our industry that jewellers don’t tend to get swamped with people. We have always liked the idea of having stores where the customer has the space to browse, this extra space will now be of great assistance with the advent of social distancing.