Pretty village is the business for affordable style
There is more to Adare than thatched cottages as local entrepreneurs work hard to beat the recession, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
THE village of Adare, with its picture-postcard thatched cottages, has long been a destination for tourists and home visitors alike. And at the heart of the Co Limerick village is a very hard-working and enterprising business community which has risen to the challenge of the recession.
The family-owned four-star Dunraven Arms Hotel is at the centre of the community for all the special family occasions. Owned and run by consummate hoteliers, the Murphy family, Louis, Bryan and Hugh, the feel here is of being in a lovely, welcoming country house laden with antiques. Strong equestrian and hunting connections complete the country house ambiance at Dunraven. Regular guests are welcomed back, visitors from America and elsewhere are made feel at home, their day's happenings enquired of at dinner, plans discussed at breakfast -- which includes their signature whole ham, carved fresh in the diningroom.
Food is always excellent in their Maigue restaurant where I had a wonderful tartare of smoked salmon and fabulous roast beef carved in the dining room, while Brendan had an equally superb terrine followed by lamb, before retiring to the bar for a nightcap. Bed was a big four poster in a lovely junior suite. There is also a fine leisure centre. Two nights' bed and breakfast and one dinner is available from €99 per person sharing -- go pamper yourself. These are the sort of family-run hotels we need to cherish.
Opened just two weeks is Diego Florio and Zara Power's eclectic shop, Florio's which has a strong retro and artistic influence. Florio's does top-of-the-range Italian Marchi kitchens, as well as hip furniture, clothes, jewellery, and much, much more.
Diego is a kitchen designer. His father is Italian, his interior designer mother is German, and he was brought up in Argentina. Zara, who is from Adare, has a Masters in Art History from Trinity. She has been interning at the National Museum but "couldn't get a job" so she decided to do something for herself in conjunction with Diego in a quirky shed-style premises on Station Road.
"I have a clear vision of what I want in my head. There are no boundaries -- just whatever takes my fancy. I want to promote artisan makers of jewellery, clothes, furniture, and I want to keep prices down. I have also been talking to art students from Limerick, so I will have lots of their work in here also," Zara said
Zara showed me beautiful devore style jackets in wonderful colours which she came across in London and which sell for €45 to €65. There was lots of retro kitchenware, and a range from Welligogs, young, country-style tweed jackets and wax coats which are apparently favoured by Kate Middleton. These are priced around €350 to €390.
Diego explained that Marchi kitchens are tailor-made, and take four to six months to produce in a factory near Milan. Lush and glamorous, yet understated, the design is based on Louis X1V chests with the big belly and curved legs combining solid oak, stainless steel, grey white marble and pewter.
Asking Diego how he found sales of kitchens in these times, he replied, "In the good times, builders never came near me because my kitchens are for people who want dream kitchens. This kitchen is a different story because people who can afford this kitchen are really beyond recession if they want the house of their dreams."
Kay Mulcaire, from Rathkeale, has been in the fashion business for 15 years and opened K's Boutique in Adare six years ago, doing daytime and casual clothing. She opened her second boutique, Isobel's, in Adare four years ago, and it is a cocoon of glamour for special occasions.
"We have a good range from size 6 to 20 -- the way I see it, both mother and daughter can go shopping together and both find something stunning here," Kay said.
She showed me a gorgeous white Valentino coat which as she says could be worn to a wedding and then afterwards more casually over jeans. Kay knows what she is about.
"The change with the recession means people are not impulse buying but they are still buying, and we were up this February on last year."
Towards the top of the main street stands Serendipity, a cute shoe boutique owned by Elaine Cronin who has adapted her business very successfully to the times.
"I opened in September 2008, at a bit of a mad time, but I am so glad some nice bank manager decided to support me," she said, adding: "There were fabulous boutiques in Adare but no shoe shops to complement them."
Elaine is originally from Limerick but grew up in Cork. She has lived everywhere, from America to Australia, ending up back in Limerick six years ago.
"We had a very strong two years but November 2010 was really tough going, it just bottomed out, and so my buying habits had to change, my prices had to change. Whereas before, whilst ladies were obviously looking at prices, it wasn't as much of a deal, now it is very price-driven. Our average shoe price when I opened two and a half years ago would have been maybe €140--€160 whereas now customers are looking at spending €80-€120.
"I also try and do as many co-ordinating handbags as possible, so you don't end up trawling the country looking for a bag or jewellery to match, we try and send them out of here with everything that they need. Most of my shoes are Italian or Spanish but I also have two fab labels from Brazil I think that is why I am succeeding at the moment. People want something different and they want value for money. "
One of the longstanding shops in Adare is Richard Curtin's Country Dresser, which he opened 16 years ago about the same time as the Clonshire Equestrian Centre.
The Country Dresser is a one-stop shop for a wide range of outdoor clothing, stocking the very best in traditional country clothing including the Barbour and Musto ranges and the vibrant Joules range. They have fabulous boots and a big range of children's gear. "Price is now the biggest thing," said Richard. "The discretionary spend has been reduced. With horseriding and outdoor pursuits having been reduced, people are not buying that extra jacket this year."
However, he said: "Children's wear is still very strong, grannies and uncles and aunts come in and buy clothes once they realise the children are into horseriding because they know they will get the use out of them."