Why Ciaran Bass (70) is 'proud to be the man from Brown Thomas'
Published 05/12/2015 | 09:21
If there's one place in Dublin that's known for going all out at Christmas, it has to be Brown Thomas.
The famous department store's façade is covered in fairy lights and greenery, and the windows overlooking Grafton Street glisten and glimmer with beautiful seasonal wares and elaborate decorations. And the most recognisable face associated with the iconic store?
That would be the one peeking out from underneath a top hat, of concierge Ciaran Bass (70) from Dublin. He's been manning the door of BT for 14 years, greeting everyone from tourists to natives, celebrities to valued clientele, but he has been working for the company for a lot longer.
"I joined the company in 1983, when it was then Switzers; I was the first male cleaner to work there. I then moved on to a position as a porter, and after two years, progressed to the men's suiting department to work as a sales assistant.
"In 1995, Switzers crossed the street and I carried on working in the men's suiting department until I moved to the role of concierge in 2001. I had actually dressed as a concierge for a customer event we hosted in-store at the time, and when the position of concierge arose, my manager remembered this and suggested I apply for the role."
As one might expect, Ciaran's favourite time of year to work on Grafton Street is the Christmas period.
"There is nothing like the buzz of the city centre, the lights on Grafton Street and the Christmas windows at Brown Thomas.
"I see families and old friends spending time together, carol singers raising money for charity, children visiting Santa, customers shopping for gifts for their special someone - the feel-good factor is second to none.
"I also actually get a great kick of seeing people bump in to each other on the street that haven't seen each other for years - these accidental reunions are a regular occurrence within the crowds at Christmas, and lovely to see."
Anyone worried that Ciaran might freeze standing on the door needn't - his outerwear is designed to cater for the Christmas climate.
"I have two winter uniforms which consist of the top hat, black overcoat, gloves, trousers, ties and several shirts.
"I've such a passion for what I do, I take huge pride in my uniform. I would be that way inclined anyway: very meticulous and focused on the detail in everything that I do."
Ciaran love the sense of old-worldliness associated with his job, which is a rare one in this day and age.
"I love to give customers a friendly welcome and add something special to their day as they step into our luxury store. Lots of tourists stop to take photographs and comment that there are very few retailers with a concierge, particularly in the US or mainland Europe, so it can be a novelty to see today."
However, his job involves much more than just saying hello and opening the famous doors.
"Every morning at 8.50am, I meet with the store managers and department manager, and we do 'the walk' of the exterior of the building; we check the lights, the canopies, ensure that everything is in order and that the flags are flying.
"After I've checked everything, I meet with security and the doors are opened. Most mornings there are customers outside waiting, so I am the first person to welcome them to the store.
"Throughout the day, the department managers and store management team check in with me and enquire about the daily activity and the footfall on the street. I am briefed on any upcoming events in advance and told if I have a specific role or just need to be aware of important visitors."
And important visitors are a regular occurrence - Brown Thomas is known for hosting A-list shoppers, as well as celebrity guests, for big events.
"I've met some very exciting people over the years, including Pelé, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Conor McGregor, Michael Bublé, Liz Hurley, Robbie Williams, Cliff Richard, Elle MacPherson, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Bill Clinton," Ciaran explains.
"Michael Bublé really stood out in my mind; he turned on the lights on Grafton Street four years ago and it was such a fantastic celebration. He was a complete gentleman, made time for everyone, was extremely friendly and the reception he received from the crowd on the street was overwhelming. Westlife turned on the lights another year and it was great to meet them. Singing is a passion of mine, so I thoroughly enjoy meeting entertainers."
However, Ciaran is just as excited to meet the regular man on the street.
"The customers that stand out to me are the ones I have gotten to know over the years, they stop to ask about your family, to tell you their news, and really have become friends. I get to know generations of the same family; one customer introduced me to their son some years ago and recently brought their granddaughter over to say hello, which felt like a lovely tradition.
"Each day, those passing through Grafton Street will often say hello: customers, tourists, students, council workers, the gardaí. I am a familiar face at this stage. Tourists will often approach me to ask for advice on local historic attractions or directions to Trinity College, the Molly Malone statue or Stephen's Green park.
"I am very much a people person and get a great sense of satisfaction from my role. I get recognised by customers, especially at the airport. I'm always delighted to be greeted by name, or even as 'the man from Brown Thomas'!"
Ciaran says he gets a kick out of his job because he's such a people person naturally.
"I get to interact with people from all walks of life, and chat to the most interesting individuals on a daily basis, so the best part of the job is the satisfaction in providing customer service.
"There aren't many bad parts to the job - the worst thing is when a customer gets distracted from their child momentarily, my heart skips a beat each time, but I'm happy to report there has always been a happy reunion!"