The buzz is back on Main Street

maria pepper

Published 10/12/2013|05:42

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Wexford siblings Christine, Patrick and Linda Meehan outside their new Natural Health Store on North Main Street

Wexford's Main Street is experiencing a fresh vote of confidence as new shops open their doors.

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Wexford's Main Street is experiencing a fresh vote of confidence as new shops open their doors.

The only reports emanating from the town's 'golden mile' for a long time related to retail closures.

Now there is a fledgling air of optimism, reflected in the opening last week of a new Main Street health store and a men's and women's fashion outlet called Industry in the iconic double-fronted Corry's building.

Two additional new shops, L'emacity and Vintage Bellle, also recently opened in Selskar.

South 51, the South Main Street pub run by Wexford businessman Bobby O'Neill which went into receivership in 2012, has re-opened under new ownership as the Fifty One bar and grill.

The former Wool Shop next door which changed hands in the same sale. has been completely refurbished and is now to let.

While the dark clouds of recession haven't gone away - the Wexford branch of A-Wear closed down after going into receivership less than two weeks ago and long-standing furniture outlet Lowney's is shutting up shop - there is a buoyancy which suggests a corner is being turned.

Wexfordman Patrick Meehan has taken the plunge by opening The Natural Health Store in the Main Street premises formerly occupied by Dai ladies wear which closed down last summer.

His business partners are his sisters Christine and Linda while another sister Claire is also involved.

All four previously worked for many years in Only Natural Health Food store.

Being made redundant was the spur to become a Main Street trader, according to Patrick.

'I didn't fancy life on the dole. Now is as good a time as any to open a business.'

'I feel the health food industry is doing better than most in the recession because people want to keep healthy and look after themselves. It's cheaper to be healthy than going to a doctor.'

Auctioneer Stephen Barry of Sherry Fitzgerald Haythorntwaite said the scaffolding has just been taken down from the renovated Wool shop and interest is already strong.

'I have three different agents coming to Wexford this week to view that premises,' he said.

Two of the parties are UK retailers, according to Stephen who said there is a renewed interest among British chains in Irish towns like Wexford.

'The UK chains are expanding again because many of them have restructured and can also now expand at a lower cost rent.'

'Rents have fallen to about 25% of what they used to be.'

Stephen has seen a revived property interest in the Main Street since the mid point of 2012.

And he believes Wexford is well-positioned to benefit from an upturn as it has an attractive shopping centre which has not been overly diluted by edge-of-town developments.

'Despite everything, the footfall on the Main Street has held up. We don't have excessive leakage to the outskirts.'

'We have retail parks but we don't have a big shopping centre with fashion outlets taking from Main Street business as they do in other towns.'

'Wexford has a properly developed retail core and has held onto it.'

'We are lucky in that we have an attractive and atmospheric Main Street.'

'And we are far enough away from Dundrum and Liffey Valley for it still to be a trip.'

Stephen said he is optimistic about the future.

'We are attractive again to English retailers because of our geographic location. The chains are coming back in.'

'For whatever reason, UK retailers want to be in the corners of a country as well as the capital.'

'When Superdrug opened here, it was only their second outlet in Ieland.'

'For Fat Face, the Wexford shop was their third premises in the country and Specsavers came very early to Wexford,' he said.

Wexford People

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