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Return to Recessionary Road

A Herald investigation into how Dubliners are coping with the recession has revealed dramatic changes over the past year.

Residents of Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, provided a snapshot of how the country was coping with the downturn last year. Now, one year on, we discover how life on 'Recessionary Road' has changed.

The parents

Full-time mum Joan Murphy was concerned about her children's school last year, which had a problem with a rat and mice infestation in its temporary accommodation.

But she said that Belgrove School, which her nine-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy attend, was lucky enough to receive funding from the Department of Education's Summer Work Programme.

"The school received money from the department and also through individual funding," she said. "Thankfully, the problem is gone," she said.

Head of the household Brendan works in the construction industry but has managed to weather the worst of the storm.

"There's been no huge improvement in the sector, we will never be building the same amount of houses that we had been," Joan said. "But he is still in the industry, still working."

The businesswoman and mother

Karen Mulvany's business, Mischa's Shoe Shop, folded under the weight of the recession.

Named after her two-year-old daughter, the shop was a labour of love for Karen, but she was forced to close towards the end of last year.

"I had a great first season. But the spring/summer season was absolutely disastrous. My advisers said that I couldn't continue," she said. "It's a terrible shame, but I had to be sensible."

However, the closure meant that Karen could focus all of her energy on her other company, The Buyer's Agent, a property search and acquisition company.

"We're absolutely flying it," Karen said. "We have loads of new buyers and there are tons of properties on the market. People are haggling like there's no tomorrow."

The pensioner

Leslie Malone said that life hasn't changed considerably but is deeply worried about those around her.

"My colleagues and family members are being affected more and more. There is greater concern about jobs," she said.

"I'm subject to the various levies that everyone else is subject to. I'm concerned about the future and what may happen," she said.

Leslie is originally from Birmingham and worked as a hospital physicist.

"By the time I retired at the end of 2007, I got a lump sum and decided I would invest it in a fairly safe place," she said.

"I just hope that I will get back what I put in. It's hard to know. At my stage I have to put money aside to fall back on.

"I don't want to take them out early and suffer severe losses. I will leave them in until they mature," she said.

"The worst part is my family not knowing when the next job cut will be."

Restaurateur

There have been some newcomers to Vernon Avenue who are hopeful about the future on the road.

Liam Moloughney opened his restaurant in May of last year, initially during the day time. But as the number of customers steadily picked up, the family-run restaurant's opening hours were extended in September.

Liam said that he had some initial reservations about setting up in a recession.

"It was a good idea when we first started it three years ago," he said. "We thought January would be a quiet month, but it's been really busy."

There are 20 staff employed in Moloughney's, which has fast become a firm favourite for residents in and around Vernon Avenue who are looking for value for money as well as quality food.

The auctioneer

With the downturn in the property market, auctioneer Joe McCabe said that business has been tough.

"It certainly hasn't improved," he said. "But property is still selling and it is busy."

Joe said that while sales were slow for the last six months of the year, the house rental market stayed healthy.

"People are very much aware that the price of rent is reducing," he added.

As a businessman, Joe, originally from Clontarf, said that the price of services are particularly high and are a cause for concern.

"Certainly the price of gas has been cut since the introduction of An Bord Gais onto the market," he said. "Water rates would be high and local council rates are high, but there are few chances of decreasing this."

The retailer

Opening up in a recession was also a difficult decision for Bronagh Delaney, but she said that there have been plenty of positives.

"We started in the downturn," she said. "But I saw the need, the demand for a good kids' clothes and toy store.

"There are plenty of high-end retailers, but there was nothing middle of the road that had good value, good quality clothing and toys.

"Sometimes it can be a good time to start a business as you can get a lot of value from the wholesalers."

Bronagh said that there has been a steady stream of customers into her store, Jack and Jill on Vernon Avenue, where she has relocated from her original shop on Kincorra Avenue.

"It's a good hub to be located in," she said. "There is a great sense of community spirit."

And the recession has focused the retailer's attention towards buying Irish goods for her children's clothes store, which also employs two shop assistants.

"I support as many Irish industries as I can," Bronagh said. "I import the toys, but use an Irish agent.

"They are traditional, wooden, educational toys but I need to import them in order to keep costs down.

"The other retailers in the area are bringing more traffic which are already helping this little venture."

The hairdresser

Hair Matters on Vernon Avenue has been open for more than 17 years and has already been through one recession.

But Joseph Dell, who owns the company with his wife Vyvianne, has noticed a drop-off.

"There has been a slight downturn, but we are still in business," he said. "People are coming less frequently."

The salon introduced special discounts to encourage their customers to return to the store.

"We have had to offer more to our customers. We had a deal where if you get three hair colours with us, the fourth one is free," he said.

Joseph added that he had been negotiating with the prices of "every aspect" of running the hairdressers.

"It's the first time in history since I've been in business that suppliers in general haven't increased their prices -- from coffee to hair colour to rent," he said. "Everyone has to. It's the first time in the last 10 years that we have been in the situation where we didn't have to put the prices up."


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