Early reconstruction work got underway on the old Dearey’s building on Clanbrassil Street last week
Perhaps it’s too early. Perhaps it’s only a one-off. Perhaps I’m being a sentimental, dewy-eyed optimist. But, all the same, there’s something heart-lifting in seeing the refurbishment work getting underway on what was the old Dearey’s building on Clanbrassil Street.
Late last week, as the sun beat down on the town, work began in earnest on the old building. An iconic piece of local real estate, Dearey’s is now part of Guiney’s retail empire.
Guiney’s are a family-run business specialising in all things to do with home furnishings. Rumours have also persisted over the past few months, since the announcement was made, as to who else will be joining Guiney’s as tenants in the building.
To date nothing has materialised on that front officially, but it says a lot about the excitement being generated by this redevelopment. It seems, at long last, that some semblance of business life is returning to Dundalk’s once proud main street.
At the time of the Guiney’s announcement, Brian Carroll, of local estate agents Sherry Fitzgerald Carroll, said it will bring a “sense of purpose” back to Clanbrassil Street. We’re all hoping he’s right.
That Cumiskey’s old music store, Frank’s furniture and the old Oxfam shop - plus a number of other residential units on the adjacent Wrightson’s Lane - were also bought up by the same foreign investor, means there are real and present plans to revitalise these languishing retail spaces too.
It can only be a good thing, of course, and positivity can be a contagious thing too. If other businesses - both local, and further afield - see what Clanbrassil Street is starting to become, then there’s a very real chance that it can thrive once more.
There must, however, be a realistic and sustainable need for these businesses to come here - and remain here - in the first place. A lick of paint and a bit of polish will only get you so far.
This is were the local chamber of commerce and BIDs can come into their own. They can be the force which continues to drive new business into the town and push for improved infrastructure on the back of ongoing success. They now have a strong selling point with this large parcel of town centre retail space. It can become a centre-point for the street, and the town centre.
For too long this key part of Dundalk has been allowed to slip slowly and painfully into decline. Boarded-up shop fronts have multiplied and the sense of a dying town centre has been hard to shake off. Then again, perhaps it was just the sun that was illuminating this busy scene so wonderfully last week and pushing the mood skywards.
Like any situation were an outside investor has bought up previously NAMA-held property and began leasing it out to other parties, one cannot but have a small modicum of concern about the long-term viability of the enterprise and the continued desire of the parties involved to stay in the area for the long-haul.
After all, it is just business. Like so much in life, money will, ultimately, be the deciding factor on whether this enterprise is a long term success.
For now though, as the sun shines on Clanbrassil Street, and the grand old dame that is Dearey’s shop gets a new lease of life, let’s be positive. There’s been too many dark economic times in the past. Time to look to the future.