Great value but Dunne's store is D4 to the core
Developer's wife provides a haven from chill winds in leafy suburbs
IT'S 'Dunne's Stores' alright, but not quite as we know it.
Move over Margaret Heffernan, there's a new force in retail to be reckoned with, and she's determined to deliver value to leafy environs of Dublin 4.
Gayle Dunne's the name and D4 Stores is her answer to the prayers of the ladies who used to lunch, but who now much prefer to 'Lidl'.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent as the doors of her new low-cost supermarket venture opened for the first time last Friday morning, Gayle, wife of high-profile developer Sean Dunne, said she expects to see a steady stream of local residents pouring through the doors of D4 Stores, which is located in the former Jurys Ballsbridge Hotel (now known as the D4 Inn).
Clearly enthused by her first foray into the retail business, Gayle said: "Both a convenience store and an off-licence with good parking are badly needed in this area. There's also a real need for value for money. A lot of people in Ballsbridge have been wiped out financially like everywhere else in the country. There's no Aldi or Lidl here, but people want value for money in Ballsbridge as much as they do anywhere."
And while her well-known developer husband, Sean, may have had the new store fitted out over the past month, since Gayle first came up with the idea, it's clear that the venture will be her baby.
"It was my idea and it's my investment," she says before adding that she will be taking an active role in its day-to-day management.
And should the Ballsbridge D4 Store prove to be a success, Gayle says there could be further outlets to come, with one in Donnybrook already under active consideration.
But while it's clear that Mrs Dunne is determined to make a real go of things in the retail business, she is very much aware that it's a tough market to succeed in.
Asked, for example, why she hadn't given any consideration to the cheeky notion of branding her new store, as Dunne's Store, Gayle dismisses the suggestion, laughing: "I think there might have been a problem with that!"
On the head of that more-established retail empire, she says: "Margaret Heffernan would probably be the businesswoman I respect the most in Ireland in terms of her work. She's absolutely dedicated to her company, knows what people want; but at the same time is a great family person as well. She gets the balance just right. But Dunnes isn't in this area. There is a Dunnes now, but it's the 'D4 Dunnes'!
Given that the original Dunnes Stores was established in 1944, also in the midst of a recession, might that be a good omen for D4 Stores?
"I think it is actually. Arthur Ryan of Penneys was saying to Sean for a good while, 'You've got to go into retail!' And it's at times like this, you do wish you were in retail. When I look at the friends I have in the retail industry, providing they didn't invest in property or bank shares, they're still ticking over. So certainly, regular cash flow is the way to go."
Last night, the famously media-shy Penneys chief broke his silence to wish Gayle all the best with her bold new venture.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the 74-year-old retailing legend quipped: "A yard of counter is worth more than a hundred acres, but unfortunately Sean hasn't been listening to me. I'm glad to see Gayle did!"
Asked if Arthur Ryan might become a regular customer given that he lives locally, Gayle said: "Absolutely. Especially when he hears that there are special offers, Arthur will be one of our first customers."
Judging by her enthusiasm for her new store, it's obvious Gayle Dunne isn't going to let the recession get her down any time soon.
Commenting on this, she says: "You have to look at new ways of doing things. You have to be inventive. There is good value out there. People have to be positive, stick at it, and things will pick up again. There is an opportunity in every difficulty and hopefully this will be one of them!"
One famous individual expected through the doors of Mrs Dunne's new shop tomorrow is the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
The one they call 'the Greatest' has been lined up to cut the tape for the store for its official opening. Afterwards, the three-time world heavyweight champion, who is staying as a guest at the D4 Ballsbridge Court, is set to host a fundraising dinner for the Louisville-based Muhammad Ali Centre.
Those expected to attend the event include former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, 1956 Olympic 1500m champion Ronnie Delaney, 1992 Olympic boxing champion Michael Carruth, 2008 Olympic boxing bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, Lord Mayor Emer Costello, EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, Kerry GAA legend and Wicklow team manager Mick O'Dwyer and Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte.
Also set to make an appearance in honour of Ali are Irish rugby heroes past and present including Moss Keane, Mick Galwey and Paul O'Connell, who most recently captained the British and Irish Lions on tour in South Africa.