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Best foot forward as Fitzpatricks marks 50 years


A landmark Irish shoe chain celebrated 50 years in business on Dublin's Grafton Street with a fourth generation of the Fitzpatrick family coming on board.

Thomas Fitzpatrick from Cavan quit his job in 1926 as shoe buyer for Arnotts to open his own shop on Henry Street. His three sons, Sean, Michael and Tom, joined the company and the Irish shoe chain expanded over the years with three more branches on O'Connell Street, George's Street and Grafton Street -- which opened in 1961.

Three-quarters of a century after the first store, his great-grandson Andrew Fitzpatrick (25) has joined the just announced fourth-generation board of directors -- and a new online store has been unveiled to drive the family shoe business in the internet retail sphere.

Andrew's father Declan is the man who famously introduced Ugg boots to Ireland in 2006, never suspecting then that the comfy but ugly suede and fur boots at €200-plus would became the 'must have' look for Irish teenagers.

Some 30,000 pairs of Uggs later, Fitzpatricks now struggles to keep Hunter wellingtons on the shelves after introducing the popular agricultural footwear to the high street after Kate Moss was spotted in them.

"We've bought from all the big names -- Gucci, Dior, Valentino -- but the one I remember most was old Bruno Magli who used to arrive at the shoe factory driving an old Fiat 500 and his four bodyguards would travel behind in a big Mercedes.

"He was a very wealthy man with hotels and factories but he always insisted on driving himself in his battered Fiat," said Declan.

Fitzpatricks' director of buying, Rachel Armstrong, designs the store's own brand of Italian-made shoes which have doubled in sales. To mark her contribution, Ms Armstrong has become the first non-family member appointed to the board.


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