Sunken treasure: Peek inside stunning seaside cottage in Dundalk
Anne McEntegart wasn't pushed about the dilapidated cottage that was for sale, but her father bid successfully for it on her behalf. Her then boyfriend was not impressed.
When it comes to risk, parents are usually the cautious ones, while the offspring want to push the boat out. However, in the case of that all-important first-house purchase, Anne McEntegart's father was the one who was gung-ho.
Anne's dad spotted a little dilapidated cottage not far from his own home in Dundalk and persuaded Anne to go for it. "My father was dead keen for me to get on the property ladder. He saw this house, and thought it was wonderful and had great potential. I didn't even go to the auction; I gave Dad my budget, and told him that was as far as I could go," Anne recalls with a laugh. "He came back and said, 'There's good news and bad news'. The good news was he bought the cottage, the bad news was that he had gone over budget."
Anne was, needless to mention, a bit thrown, but her father gave her an out - he said if she didn't want the house, he would take it. "I have no idea what he would have done with it," Anne muses.
It was tempting to let him have it - after all, her then boyfriend, now husband, Eugene Mc Entegart was, according to Anne, "pretty horrified" by the house, but her father's faith in the property convinced Anne that it was worth it, and she opted to go with it.
It was a good decision; Anne, who is one of the country's leading pharmacists, and Eugene, a civil engineer, have created a stunning home for themselves, their three children Eugene (14), Holly (13), and Lily (11), and their gorgeous dogs, Beau and Sadie.
Anne's mother has also been a huge influence in her life. Anne took her lead from her when it came to choosing her future career; her mother was a pharmacist with a well-established business in the centre of Dundalk. "Actually, my parents were very unusual for their time," Anne says. "They emigrated to Sierra Leone and loved it; the two eldest of the family were born there. My parents came back to Ireland in the 1960s and had the remaining four of us. I'm the second youngest."
Anne's parents opened the pharmacy in 1965 - her father looked after the business end of things, while her mother did the dispensing. Anne wanted to do something science-related after leaving school, so pharmacy was the obvious choice. When she qualified in Trinity, she immediately came back and started working in Smyth's Pharmacy, the family business. Almost from the get-go, Anne started looking at ways of growing the business. "I came straight back in 1991 and took over from my mother. The first thing I did was a refit. Then, in 1994, I opened a second pharmacy in the centre of Dundalk. I also moved the original business in 2006, when I bought a large supermarket space in Seatown Place and turned it into a pharmacy," Anne says.
She decided to close the second pharmacy this year in order to concentrate fully on the Seatown pharmacy, which she has been steadily developing over the years.
"What happened was, I was on the board of Uniphar, and we could see that the landscape of pharmacies was changing. There was a pilot project set up to see where community pharmacies should be going, and I put my hand up and said I'd be a pilot project for this. We created the first Life pharmacy in Ireland, and today, there are 69. We are all independently owned, but we share expertise and conform to a certain standard," Anne enthuses.
Her pharmacy is unusually large, and is one of the top 100 busiest stores in the country. Set over two floors, the pharmacy has room for all the usual medicines you'd find in your local chemist, but there is space for much more besides, and Anne delights in developing these areas of the business.
"Our focus is advice for living well. I love the health-food supplement end of things, and I feel we give the correct advice," Anne notes, adding that they also specialise in vaccinations, blood-pressure monitoring and foot care.
"We have a large consultation room, and we also specialise in health and beauty," she explains.
The business is going so well that not only has she three full-time pharmacists on site, but also, two of her siblings work with her on the business end of things. Eugene, who has an MBA, is great too for helping her to develop ideas.
Eugene is also from Louth, and the couple have known each other since they were teenagers; they got together in 1997, and married in 2000.
Eugene did engineering in UCD and after spending a few years in England, he was involved with NTR in setting up the toll plaza on the M1.
The couple initially lived in a rented house and didn't renovate the cottage until their second child, Holly, was born. Then they got a local architect, Paraic Mc Kevitt, to look at it.
"Paraic said immediately the only thing to do was demolish the house, and he was right. What we had was a brilliant site on a third of an acre with wonderful sea views," says Anne, who adds, "We knew we'd never get planning permission for two storeys, so we built down. From the road, it looks like a single-storey house, but is two storeys."
Despite its sunken position slightly below ground level, the superb family kitchen, which is the size of the original cottage, is full of light, with lots of roof lights, and glass doors opening onto the large deck. Indeed, the whole house is light-filled; the bedrooms are mainly on the same level as the kitchen, while the living areas are above, to take full advantage of the view. In all, the house, designed by Paraic Mc Kevitt, comprises 3,600 square feet.
It's a real family home, with a cosy kitchen built by a local kitchen designer, John Stewart. "I'm very strong on using local businesses," Anne says, pointing out also the colourful paintings by Louth artist Patricia Murphy.
It's built to run efficiently, with underfloor heating and a centralised vacuuming system for ease of cleaning - all the better for Eugene, who opted four years ago to become a full-time dad. "We are very lucky in that when I was made redundant, we had a choice about whether or not I would go back to full-time work. We decided that I would stay at home and allow Anne to drive the business on," Eugene notes, adding, "It hasn't always been plain sailing. Sometimes I think it was easier to run a roads business than it is to manage three kids for a day. But, overall, I've really enjoyed it, and I know I'm very lucky to have had the chance to do it."
Eugene's main focus outside of the home and the children is sport; he's doing an online master's in strength and conditioning, and he also does strength and development coaching for the Leinster Youth Rugby Development programme.
He's always there for the kids when they get in from school and, as he's a keen cook, Eugene has the dinner on the table every evening. "I slag him regularly that he's living the dream," Anne says.
In fact, it seems as if they both are.
Smyth's Life Pharmacy, 42/43 Seatown Place, Dundalk, Co Louth, tel: (042) 933-5296, or see lifepharmacy.ie
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
Sunday Indo Living