Thursday 17 January 2019

Family and tiles are our twin passions

Patrick Doyle runs the tile business his dad Tom founded in 1972, and they have managed not to kill one another

Father and son Tom and Patrick Doyle live together in Wexford. Photo: David Conachy
Father and son Tom and Patrick Doyle live together in Wexford. Photo: David Conachy

Andrea Smith

This time four years ago Tom Doyle became a grandfather for the first time, which he says has been a brilliant experience. It's just as well he likes it as he has now acquired seven grandchildren in four years, courtesy of his three children, Anna, Patrick and Elizabeth, and there's another on the way. To complete his crash course in dealing with toddlers, two now live with him in the family home in Wexford.

This is because Tom's son Patrick (37) moved back in to look after him when Tom became ill two years ago, bringing his wife Avril with him. Their twin boys, Tom and Sean, then came along and are turning one today. "He moved back in and brought a load with him," says Tom, in his gruff but twinkly manner. You get the sense that he protests but secretly loves it all, and he's great with the boys apparently, although he draws the line at changing nappies.

Tom (70) worked in drapery and haulage in his early days and saw an opportunity to open a tile business in 1972 called Tom Doyle Supplies. In 2012, Halo Tiles & Bathrooms was born from that business, and there's a flagship 10,000 square feet showroom in Camolin, Enniscorthy, plus 22 Halo stockists around the country. Tom has now retired, although he remains on the board.

He was widowed six years ago when his wife Sheila sadly passed away from lung cancer, aged 65. They were married in 1974, and he got through it by keeping himself busy. "Sheila was great and it was a big loss," he says. He has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow, which has caused kidney failure. He keeps it all ticking over through chemotherapy and nine-and-a-half hours of dialysis at night. It's a chronic condition, but he plans to stick around for as long as possible.

Patrick had a very happy childhood and says that his dad worked extremely hard providing for the family. "He was a tough man and very straight and people respected him for it," he says. "My mother was very caring and family-orientated, and she was full of life. My parents taught me honesty and decency, and to have respect for yourself and others and treat people equally."

Tom recalls that Patrick was a bit of a messer who cried a lot as a child. "I still do," jokes Patrick. He had "a couple of goes" at education, including three years of accountancy training, but as Larry Gogan might say, the courses didn't suit him. He met his wife Avril at college and she's a career guidance teacher and a very good person, he says. They were married in 2011, and love being parents to their twin sons.

By his own admission, Tom was a strict dad and is more involved as a grandfather than he was as a father. He attributes this to the long hours he worked when his children were growing up, which meant that most of the rearing fell to Sheila. He notes that younger dads like Patrick have a more hands-on role these days, which he thinks is a good thing. They're a close-knit family and both of his daughters are teachers. Elizabeth has three children and Anna has two, with another on the way.

Patrick joined the business in 2004, much to Tom's delight, and is now managing director. He brought accountancy skills and a fresh perspective with him, and even though working with your family can be tricky at times and he and his dad clashed heads, it has worked out very well. "We've had our arguments as I was brought up to know my own mind, and there's generations of stubbornness there," laughs the genial Patrick, who also co-owns Candy's Gala shop in Carnew.

Tom says that Patrick joining the business was the "best thing ever" as it was a case of "new head, new ideas". The business was doing very well, but when the recession struck in 2008, it went through a very hard time, like businesses everywhere. Having to let staff go was "horrendous" and the worst aspect of the whole time. The business ultimately survived as it had been very well run by Tom and there is very little debt there, and now it's back on its feet.

Halo does well because it offers a premium product at a reasonable price, says Patrick, and has a very knowledgeable team of people. The superb showroom offers a wide range of bathroom displays, floor tiles, and timber and stone panelling, as well as the recently-launched outdoor paving section. The company works across a variety of domestic and commercial projects, and fitted out the guest bathrooms in the bedrooms at the recently-launched Iveagh Hotel, as well as providing tiles for the bar. Having had a very successful outing at house in the RDS, where many designers visited the stand, they're looking forward to returning there in May.

Patrick says that when Tom has an idea, he acts upon it immediately, whereas his style is more considered and he likes to plan it all out. He admires his dad's gung-ho attitude, though, and says that he greatly admires him. As for Tom, a man of fewer words, he feels that his son is doing a great job with the business and it's in safe hands. "He's very kind too," he says. "I only realised how much since I got sick."

house 2018 is Ireland's only trend-led and style-focused interiors event taking place in Dublin's RDS from May 25-27, showcasing world-class design and the cream of Irish interiors' talent. Buy your tickets now at Under 12s go free.

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