STEPPING into J Joyce & Co on Princes Street is like entering into another world.
It’s one of old Cork’s crown jewels, intriguing the young and older generations of Cork for over eight decades.
Joyces is an eclectic mix of soft toys, board games, art supplies, books, cards and a plethora of other whimsical items.
At the helm of one of the city’s oldest toy and craft shops, John Joyce is keeping the family business alive and well.
“My father set it up in the 1930s and it has evolved through time,” he told The Echo. “My mother passed away 10 years ago and before she died I started to become active in the business.”
Whilst the city has seen a lot of toy shops close over the years, Joyces has remained a stalwart for unique gifts at Christmas time and is constantly striving to stay relevant.
“While it may be a toy shop, it’s also a craft and hobby store where people can come in and they can get activities for all generations from the three-month-old to the 103-year-old,” John says.
The multi-generational appeal is one that John prides the shop on.
“We stock games for children as well as teenagers and adults. From the classics like Scrabble and Monopoly through to the more current games like Catan, Carcassonne, Betrayal and Twilight Imperium, there’s definitely something for everyone.”
Compounding this, Joyces sell a variety of games which the family as a whole can enjoy as John duly notes: “You can play snap at three or 103.”
Apart from the ordinary people of Cork, Joyces has seen many a famous face visit the shop, but on this John is tight-lipped.
“We’ve had many notable customers over the years from the world of politics, sport and showbiz,” he says.
“We’ve seen them all, but they prefer their anonymity.”
With the exponential growth of online shopping in recent years, as well as juggernaut high street stores with multiple branches, John realises that the need to stay diverse has never been more important.
“City centre trading is in one sense difficult but it’s a challenge that you have to meet,” he says.
“It’s very easy for people to jump into a car and head off to one of these off city shopping centres where they can park and they can load big things in and out easily.
“We’ve seen people pull out of the city because it’s difficult for them to find parking and things like that, but if you have a unique collection of items then it entices people to come back in.
“If you offer people a unique experience, whether it’s like ours or whether it’s with a restaurant where they can sit down and meet and they enjoy themselves I think people value that experience.
“Shopping centres do have their benefits but it’s mainly the same stores that are in all the shopping centres, whereas in the city centre you’ll get a unique range of businesses.”
The online world of shopping is something which John is ambivalent toward.
Whilst undoubtedly convenient, John believes online shopping can be detrimental to traditional retail outlets based in the city centre.
“They’re using us as a sample house and somebody else gets the benefit,” he says. “That’s the huge danger with online. They look at something here and then they go scouring the internet for it.”
In the lead up to Christmas business was booming for Joyces, however, with loyal customers continuing to support the one of a kind business.
“We have a loyal customer base, where you see second and third generations of families now coming into the shop.
“Even tourists, who might have popped into the shop as a child remember it and like to make a return visit as an adult. Joyces has evolved and it will continue to evolve because we like to stay unique.”