'THIS building was supposed to be occupied by solicitors and accountants but, when that fell through, we turned it into retail," said Annette Curley of Home Gallery at Newtownsmith, Galway.
We were standing on the third floor of a vast, impressive light-filled building, with wall-to-wall views out over the River Corrib. This new store comprises Born clothing on the first two floors, selling trendy labels for women and men, Home Gallery interiors shop on the third floor, and a large cafe overlooking the river.
We haven't seen very many retail stores of this size opening in the past couple of years, and it is a great initiative as well as being a super place to shop and relax at the same time. The building itself is owned by Annette and her husband, John Curley, who live in Kilcolgan, Co Galway, with their two children, Shane, 17 and Aisling 14. The Home Gallery, however, is a business partnership between Annette and her brother-in-law, Des Curley.
Home Gallery is a wonderland of beautiful home accessories including lamps, chandeliers, pictures, kitchen equipment, cushions, fabrics, bedlinen, furniture, tables, chairs, soft furnishings, a vast cocoon of colours and ideas, and I wanted to bring half of it home!
It is very user-friendly, set out in themed sections so you are not lost in one big expanse.
Curley is a well-known name in the furniture business, with retail stores in Galway, Ennis and Kilkenny, where, Annette tells me, they sell "the bigger end of things, -- beds, suites, tables -- as well as furnishing apartments and houses completely for people", as Des is very talented at interior design.
"Being so well established in the furniture end of the business, furnishing houses and apartments, we then saw a niche for people who wanted to buy pictures and mirrors, and little things to finish off their homes, so we opened Home Gallery in Ennis in 2008 and it went very well."
September, 2008 was when Lehman Brothers collapsed in the US, causing financial turmoil worldwide. However, this did not deter the Curleys who are very positive about their business.
"Things did go down a bit after the collapse, but we still reached our targets and customers kept returning. Then the third floor came up in this building here in Galway, which was originally supposed to be offices for solicitors and accountants, so we opened a Home Gallery in the space. This has also gone very well, adding a new dimension to the shopping experience in Galway," says Annette.
That, however, is not the whole story for Annette and Des are continuing to expand with the opening of a new Home Gallery store in Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin within the next six weeks, again above Born, which opened there a few months ago.
Annette says they decided to open in Dundrum Town Centre because they are constantly getting visitors from Dublin into the Galway shop, "people who are down for the weekend or on holiday, who love what they are selling and are always asking do we have a branch in Dublin -- so we soon will".
The Home Gallery is proving very popular too with interior designers, as it has a lot of stock to create a good look at good prices.
It is amazing how happenings in life also affect our buying not just financially but our choice of colours, themes, and the way we want to live. "During the boom, it was all modern, cream, black and shiny, now mahogany is back big time. People are back into a comfort era and want gold mirrors, warm colours, reds . . . it's all about warmth and comfort and we are catering for that," says Annette.
The Born clothing stores are also under the Curley umbrella, this time a business partnership between Ann-ette's husband, John, and Joan Lynch, who does all the buying for the stores. In Galway, it is two full floors of urban chic clothing including Desigual, Lipsy, Miss Sixty, La Voila, Vera Moda, 101 (plus size range) and Mama-licious maternity range, Bench and Name-It kids' wear to name but a few.
"People will come into the store and browse around the clothes in Born, then have lunch in the boutique cafe overlooking the river, and then come up and view the interiors. The thing about the Home Gallery is that on first impression you think everything looks expensive but then you find they are not, they are reasonable, we try to keep prices down and we will always look after customers," says Annette.
With that attitude, it should do well in Dundrum Town Centre too.
Home Gallery, (091) 895228 www.homegallery.ie