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Michael O'Doherty: So no one's indispensable? Two words, Fergal Quinn

I FIRST met Feargal Quinn in the mid-1980s, as I was good friends with his eldest daughter and a regular visitor to his house.

Back then, Feargal was something of a business legend in Ireland. Having founded Superquinn in Dundalk in 1960, he built it up as a quality operation, more niche than its bigger rivals -- Dunnes and Quinnsworth -- but consciously more geared towards making shopping pleasant, rather than just cheap.

He introduced fresh bread, vegetables, and in-store butchers to the supermarket environment before anyone else. He insisted that his stores be a pleasant place to shop, and made Superquinn a byword for customer service.

Listening

Long before it became a fashionable part of management guidebooks, he would get up early, six days a week, and pound the aisles of his shops, meeting and greeting customers, listening to their comments, and acting on them.

Despite this intense workload, Feargal still managed to be home at six most evenings, and would make a point of sitting down with his wife, and a bottle of wine, to unwind before dinner with the family. But then in 2005, perhaps with a feeling that the good times were coming to an end -- how astute he was in that regard -- and that he had taken Superquinn as far as he could, Feargal sold the business for something around €450m.

Almost from that very day, the company started to go downhill.

Bought out by a group of businessmen and property developers, many regular shoppers noticed how the famed 'Superquinn experience' started to wane, with your average Tesco or Dunnes now boasting far more attractive and modern stores, something unthinkable 20 years ago.

Indispensable

And now, €400m in debt, Superquinn has been taken over by Musgraves.

Feargal, meanwhile, has used his huge talents to help smaller businesses overcome the recession in RTE's Retail Therapy show. Advice that, ironically, his former business was obviously in desperate need of.

He is also applying his boundless enthusiasm to being one of the more reputable members of the Senate.

Hopefully Superquinn will have a brighter future, and regain some of the respect it bathed in during Feargal's reign.

People always say that nobody is indispensable, and that no one man is bigger than a company. Much of the time those people are right, but to those who think that rule cannot be disproven, I have two words. Feargal Quinn.

I'll keep an eye on the models in mini-skirts

Rangan Arulchevan, the owner of Krystle nightclub, is turning the basement of the hotel where it's located into another club, but this time aimed at the over-30s.

To be called Bojos 35, it will deal with the perceived problem of where people of a certain age can go after dinner, without having to bump into girls half their age, and will specialise in music from the Seventies and Eighties.

"This is somewhere that the over-30s can go and relax, and they don't have to look at girls in mini-skirts all night," explained Rangan. Presumably Rangan has the likes of Grainne Seoige, Claire Byrne, Amanda Brunker and Vicky Smurfit in his mind -- all beautiful, outgoing women in their 30s who tend to favour the lower hemline. But whether they will want to dance around their handbags to the sound of Kajagoogoo in the company of boozed-up, separated middle managers is another question.

One person who seems almost guaranteed to frequent the joint is Celebrity Salon and Fade Street producer John Norton (40), who only last weekend claimed: "I don't want to be the 45-year-old man in Krystle, or be the oldest swinger in town."

So enjoy Bojos 35, John.

In the meantime, I'll stick to Krystle, but promise to keep you informed of how the beautiful leggy models who hang out there every weekend are faring without you.

It's a dirty job, etc...

Collette gives game away about Ashley

Donegal beauty Collette McBarron, the former army officer turned model, turned fitness instructor, is apparently dating Ashley Cole, although she is being unusually coy on the subject.

"I can't say that we've never been out together," Collette cooed, "because there are pictures of that, on different occasions." All of which would seem to pour doubt on Ashley's mooted reunion with ex Cheryl, a fact that is backed up by Collette.

"Without saying too much, I could guarantee that he isn't. Unless I'm hearing fibs," she explained.

Fibs, from Ashley Cole?

Never, Collette.

I'm sure that you and Ashley will have a long and happy life together...


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