Monday 23 September 2019

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Lisa Grainger and Susan-Jane Corbett find that running their boutique, Olori, in Cork has brought them closer

Sisters Susan-Jane Corbett (left) and Lisa Grainger own Olori boutique in Cork. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sisters Susan-Jane Corbett (left) and Lisa Grainger own Olori boutique in Cork. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Andrea Smith

It was the untimely death of their mum Dolores that was the catalyst for Lisa Grainger and Susan-Jane Corbett's decision to leave their successful careers behind and open a boutique in Cork.

Dolores passed away in 2007 aged 57, after she suffered a brain haemorrhage. After the call came, a terror-stricken Lisa and another sister, Tracey, travelled from Cork to Dublin. Once the family was reunited doctors broke the sad news that Dolores had died.

Despite being in shock, the family selflessly donated her organs.

"Six people are alive now because of Mum," says Susan-Jane. "She was an amazing mother who could turn her hand to anything, and she was very creative and stylish. She really loved her clothes and that's where we got it from."

Lisa (42) and Susan-Jane (36) grew up in Lucan, Dublin. They lived above their dad Tim's grocery shop, Beech Park Stores, and loved helping out there. When they were teenagers, their dad sold the shop and went into the pub business in Walshs of Stoneybatter, but has now retired. He has a great personality, they say, and they adore him.

The women have an older sister, Nicola, and Tracey comes between them. The four sisters are "ridiculously" close. Lisa was six when the youngest, Susan-Jane, was born, and by her own admission, she was the wild sister who pushed her luck a bit. She remembers being sent out by their mother to wheel the baby around the road, and palming her off on a pal while she went to play football with the boys.

Lisa moved out at 18, so the tricky teenage years where younger sisters have a penchant for stealing their older sisters' things were bypassed for this particular pair. "I looked up to Lisa as she was cool and had great clothes and make-up," says Susan- Jane. "I used to be sent into town with her whenever there was an occasion and we needed new outfits. As the older sister, she held the money, and there was often a difference of opinion and occasionally a fight in the shop over which outfit to buy."

Lisa studied beauty therapy after school, and worked for the Sheridan Group for 12 years. She managed various bars owned by them at the time, such as The Front Lounge, The Globe and Ri Ra, and went to Cork to open the Savoy nightclub for the group in 2000. That was meant to be for six months, but she never came back. The fact that she met her husband, Red FM DJ Stevie G, aka Steven Grainger, may have had something to do with it. They now have a daughter Lola (nine) and a son Marvin (five) - he's Susan Jane's godson.

Incidentally, their sister Tracey worked for the same group, and is now part of the Market Lane Group. She's a partner in four Cork restaurants - Market Lane, Elbow Lane, Orso and the Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle. Prior to setting up the boutique, Lisa managed Market Lane for her sister for eight years.

After her Leaving Cert, Susan-Jane became a hairdresser and worked in Dylan Bradshaw's salon for more than 16 years. It was an amazing salon to train in and work in, she says, but losing their mum made Lisa and Susan-Jane think about the direction their lives were taking.

"Her death was so shocking and we never even got the chance to say goodbye," says Lisa. "It really brought home to us that life is so short and made us re-evaluate our priorities."

Susan-Jane ended a relationship around that time, feeling that she had more growing to do, and decided to change career.

She and Lisa felt it was time to open their own boutique, as they had been talking about it for years, so Susan-Jane moved to Cork and they opened Olori in 2015. The name was chosen in tribute to their mum.

They stock a carefully-curated selection of high quality, beautifully-tailored wardrobe essentials by a mix of Irish and international designers, including Roisin Linnane, Cathrine Hammel, Nanushka, 88&half, ATP Atelier and Filippa K. Many of the brands are exclusive to Ireland, and the focus is on timeless pieces rather than throwaway fashion items. Lisa looks after budgets and finance and Susan-Jane takes care of social media.

"We knew we had to be different because there are so many people doing the same thing," says Lisa. "We sell simple, elegant classics, and a lot of our customers are professionals. We go the extra mile for the customer, and Susan-Jane gives a lot of hair advice for free. She's really visual so she's good with colour, and is great for putting people at ease. She's probably a lot softer than I am, and I think she's one of the nicest people I've ever met. There isn't one bad bone in her body."

Lisa is the organised one and she doesn't suffer fools. She teases Susan-Jane over being a "bit scattered".

Both sisters made a pact that they would never let the business come between them, but, happily, working together has drawn them even closer to each other.

"I love that we're bringing something new to the table and people come from all over to us," says Susan-Jane. "Lisa listens very well to the customers and she's brilliant at visual displays and is always on the hunt for the next brand. As a sister, she's very thoughtful and is always looking out for everybody else. That can be a bad thing too because she doesn't always look out for herself."

Olori, 131 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork,

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