Café culture returns to Pana

A famous Cork brand and a long-standing Irish chain have combined to give music lovers a new destination and breathe life back into an iconic building on Patrick's Street. 
Café culture returns to Pana
Golden Discs Manager David Donovan with Aidan Dukes and Fergus Burke of Dukes Coffee at Golden Discs vinyl lounge on Patrick Street. Picture Dan Linehan

One of Cork’s most historic buildings is enjoying a new lease of life, with crowds once more gathering to enjoy culture, have a cuppa and watch the world go by on Patrick Street.

In its heyday, people met at the Pavilion cinema cafe before heading in to watch the latest film. From the ‘talkies’ of the 1920’s through to the blockbusters of the ‘80s, it was a centre of culture on Cork’s main street. So it is unsurprising that David Donovan has been regaled with tales of times past. As manager of The Vinyl Lounge he has been part of the old building becoming a focal point once more.

The new dedicated space opened upstairs from the Golden Discs store in April. Intended to give the increasingly popular vinyl products extended space, the Lounge has also prompted nostalgia from customers.

“A man came in to me the other day and said, ‘you know that was a cafe before?’,” Mr Donovan said. “It was part of the Pavilion. It is really interesting to hear things like that.

“We used get it all the time just being in the building but since we opened the lounge upstairs it has increased.” 

The Vinyl Lounge and the Cork store have helped play their part in Golden Discs’ nationwide resurgence. The Irish-owned chain is in existence since the 1960s but struggled, along with so many others, to survive the recession. But it has now turned a corner, posting a profit for 2016 and opening new stores in a number of locations. Vinyl sale have been a key factor, with sales up more than 100% in 12 months. Mr Donovan said music-lovers in the city were embracing the format.

“What we found unusual was a lot of young people coming in, obviously hearing from the parents and grandparents that the sound is better. Plus there’s having the physical feel of something.

“We also have older people who probably got rid of a load of vinyl in the past, thinking they would never come back, in to buy stuff they used to have.” To ensure good service, The Vinyl Lounge is staffed by fans of the format. “We have a couple of lads here who are hugely into it, who really look after the vinyl for us. They have their own collections and have huge interest.” Although there are a number of thriving independents selling vinyl in the city, Mr Donovan sees no negativity toward Golden Discs as a chain store.

“The big thing is that we are Irish, an Irish-owned company,” he said. “We didn’t get any bad feedback from customers. Even though we do have 13 stores. Golden Discs has been in Cork for years now, I think we are seen as a local store.”

CEO Stephen Fitzgerald said the company saw the upper floor of the Cork store as ideal to look after the growing number of customers interested in vinyl. The extended space meant they could offer customers more than just a store.

“We tried to make it more of a place people want to come and hang out rather than just a shop where you buy stuff,” he said. “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.” 

Mr Fitzgerald said they would love to replicate the Lounge elsewhere but would struggle to find a similar location: “It’s a beautiful building, it’s really iconic and it is in a prominent location, right in the heart of the city. It’s quite hard to find something that is that good in Dublin.”

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