Sunday 25 March 2018

New go-getters are having their cake - and eating it

SWEET LITTLE VENTURE: Mary Scott runs the Laduree tearooms
SWEET LITTLE VENTURE: Mary Scott runs the Laduree tearooms
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

For more than a century, Grafton Street was the retail jewel in Dublin's crown, but a new enclave of uber-trendy pop-up shops, restaurants, cafes and late-night hot spots around South William Street is threatening the pre-eminence of the capital's main shopping street.

Driven by a new breed of young entrepreneurs, many of whom were brave enough to take a shot during the recession, the fashionable drag has taken over from South Anne Street and is now rivalling Grafton Street.

In terms of footfall, it is also giving the cultural quarter around Temple Bar a run for its money at night.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, a number of retailers told of the buzz about the place.

Freddie Mehigan, from Foxrock, Co Dublin, is a classic case of the go-getters deciding to take a chance on change following the crash.

Aged 26, and having recognised the popularity of thrift shops in California, he decided to come home and introduce the Irish to a new higher standard of pre-loved clothes .

Tucked away in the lane-way of South William Bar, Tasty Threads is lit by retro lampshades and has ivy creeping across brick walls. Beer crates pass through the pop-up store on the way to another delivery as young revellers hang out, sipping coffee and listening to music.

"I think after the Celtic Tiger, many people stopped splashing their cash around and discovered they didn't have to try so hard any more," said Freddie.

"I decided to give the business a shot. I think a lot of us realised we had been through a bad recession, and thought, 'F**k it - if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, what's to lose?'

"We just have to keep our overheads low. The rent is manageable, it's perfect to get my feet off the ground, but for others I believe it's a lot different. Thankfully, my set-up has given me the chance to breathe and to grow."

The importance of keeping rents at a reasonable rate was stressed by a number of outlets.

A stone's throw away, another young entrepreneur, Andrea Horan, is the owner of the hugely successful Tropical Popical nail bar and has quietly grown her business over the last three years. With cans of Lilt and Bounty bars on hand for customers, the salon is an answer to the uptight, champagne-sipping grooming parlours that took over the city during the boom years.

Wearing a glitter top and sporting fluorescent pink nails and matching accessories, the 35-year-old said she took a punt on the fact that girls now wanted a more laid-back vibe.

"Some people like the whale music, silence when getting their treatment done, rose petals and all that jazz, but here everyone chats to each other, we play loud music and have a laugh. It's the perfect antidote to people trying to outdo each other in the past."

The street also reflects the trend of mix and match spending, where shoppers will pair a luxury item with a high street brand or alternative clothing.

Thrift and pop-up stores sit side-by-side with upmarket luxury brands such as Laduree, the new French macaroon tearooms at the junction of South William Street and Wicklow Street.

Run by Mary Scott, the fiancee of Irish rugby star Devin Toner, the patissiere has expanded its Irish base from a counter in Brown Thomas to meet the demand of an Irish customer base keen to spend more money on the little luxuries in life.

In the mornings, South William Street is bustling with hair salons opening their doors to accommodate the demand for hair appointments.

Brown Sugar has just finished a refurbishment, while Cowboys and Angels is also open seven days a week to meet demand.

Sheila Burke, co-owner of Cowboys and Angels with Valerie Patterson, told how when they opened 20 years ago "there was nothing - we were practically the only ones here. It's great to see the place come to life".

Sunday Independent

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