Wednesday 19 June 2019

How this popular Galway family-run grocery evolved its business over the last 93 years

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A family-run business in operation for close to a century is calling on consumers to shop local to keep their high streets alive.

First established as McCambridge, Brennan and Co in 1925 in Galway,  the "high class grocery, provision, wine and spirit establishment" became McCambridges during the 1930's when owner George bought his partner out.

His granddaughter Natalie has now run the store on the city's well-known Shop Street for close to 20 years - but the grocer has gone through some considerable changes to keep pace with evolving consumer trends.  

"It was a local grocery with a pub next door and my grandfather used to live upstairs," Natalie told Independent.ie.

"After my Dad Pat joined in the 50s, the bar was closed and the store still sold spirits and some wine, but we opened an off licence going next to the store in 1972, the first in Galway at the time."

Although the shop underwent major renovation in the the late 1970s, Natalie said that the business "lost our way for a bit" over the next two decades as they expanded into wholesale and the restaurant industry. And the city was changing too.

"When Shop Street was pedestrianised, it changed the whole flow of our business. People weren't able to park outside and run in for the shopping. Customers were not going to be lugging bags back to the car after a supermarket shop," she said.

It was a pivotal few years for the family as efforts were made to expand into other avenues that was seeing customer demand - without losing the core essence of McCambridges.

Towards the end of the 90s, Natalie and her brother Eoin launched the store's gift hamper business and their sister Norma was instrumental in getting the business set up and running online. By the turn of the decade, both retail and wholesale businesses were fully computerised and McCambridge's first website launched.

"We dug deep into what the new demands from the customer was and responded how we could to survive. Footfall was [and still is] high on Shop Street so we added a long fresh deli to facilitate big lunchtime trade," said Natalie.

Now McCambridges offers the restaurant area, an off licence, a coffee bar, the hampers and, of course the grocery - but with more boutique product offerings.

"People like the fact that we're a family unit and we're very 'Galway', as twee as that sounds. But their trade is putting a roof over our heads, and in turn, we're employing about 100 staff."

As third generation owners, Natalie and Eoin - despite their growing international customer base, particularly among the expat community - are championing local shopping.

"I worry about city centres, about towns like Galway; if you don't have the people coming to the centre, you don't get the atmosphere, and the business that spins off from it," she said.

"I'd hate to think the streets wouldn't exist anymore, that there would be no stores to browse in to soak up the atmosphere."

Online Editors

Also in Business