A look back at the changing face of Cork's retail scene over the decades

A look back at the changing face of Cork's retail scene over the decades
Escalators for Roches Stores, Patrick's Street, Cork being installed. November 18, 1971. 

The well-known department store, which has two outlets in Cork, one on Patrick's Street and another in Mahon Point, was described by the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr John Sheehan as an anchor for the city centre.

"It’s very unfortunate, given the long association with Roches Stores initially and now Debenhams to the people of Cork," he told The Echo last week. 

"It’s one of those iconic stores. 

Roches Stores, Patrick Street annual sale. November 1, 1983. 
Roches Stores, Patrick Street annual sale. November 1, 1983. 

"It’s very sad for Cork in terms of the store and what it means to people," the Lord Mayor continued.

The closure of the Debenhams stores comes 14 years after Roches Stores announced it was to cease trading.

From humble beginnings as a small furniture shop started by William Roche, Roches Stores grew into one of Ireland's best-known chain stores. 

It had taken six years to rebuild the establishment after it was destroyed during the Burning of Cork.

Likewise, luxury department store Cash's, now Brown Thomas, was also destroyed on the night of December 11, 1920, and was later rebuilt on the same site.

The shop was opened in 1830 by a Mr Todd and traded under various names including Todd's, Carmichael and Company and J Carmichael and Company.

In 1877 the firm became a private company with the title Cash and Company Ltd, colloquially known as Cash's, and sold everything from furniture to winter coats.

The new Cash and Company premises at St Patrick's Street, April 1927.
The new Cash and Company premises at St Patrick's Street, April 1927.

Cork woman, Eileen O'Sullivan, from the Old Blackrock Road, recalled how Cash's was an opulent establishment, unlikely to attract those who were keen for a bargain.  

"The prices were untouchable. You would buy everything in there if you had the money," she told The Echo.

Speaking about another former iconic establishment, Woolworths on Patrick Street, Eileen, 89, fondly remembered the plethora of confectionary items they sold.

Checking out the bargains in the winter sales at the Munster Arcade in Patrick's Street, January 1966.
Checking out the bargains in the winter sales at the Munster Arcade in Patrick's Street, January 1966.

"They sold every sweet under the sun in there," she laughed. "They were famous for their ice cream and were probably one of the first places in Cork to sell ice cream in a cone. They also sold sticks of Cork rock which were popular amongst visitors in the city," she explained.

Woolworths last day of trading on Patrick Street Cork October 6, 1984.
Woolworths last day of trading on Patrick Street Cork October 6, 1984.

Additionally, Woolworths, which traded for over 60 years ahead of its closure in 1984, sold a multitude of other items from household goods to records and bric-a-brac and even boxes of hair dye. 

Fashion show at the Munster Arcade, Patrick Street, May 1957.
Fashion show at the Munster Arcade, Patrick Street, May 1957.

Another principal department store which was where Penneys now resides was the Munster Arcade.

The original building, designed by William Fogarty was completed in 1886, but like so many other buildings in the city, it also had to be rebuilt following the Burning of Cork.

An almost deserted Patrick's Street during a bomb alert, June, 1976.
An almost deserted Patrick's Street during a bomb alert, June, 1976.

Until it ceased trading in the 1970s, the Munster Arcade was a stalwart business in the city and like Cash's, Woolworths and Roches Stores is fondly remembered by the people of Cork.

Woolworths last day of trading on Patrick Street, October 6, 1984.
Woolworths last day of trading on Patrick Street, October 6, 1984.

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