Drive through any Irish town and you're likely to see what has become an all too familiar sight; boarded-up shopfronts, faded buildings, reminders of the past, of the pitfalls of running your own business.
Yet here in Wexford, one local business has defied all the odds, surviving through several recessions, reinventing itself to move with the times, and now celebrating its 75th anniverary in an era when its contemporaries are simply happy to see another year.
A local institution, Joyces of Wexford first opened for business in 1944. While war raged across Europe, Murt Joyce Snr opened his new premises at 7 North Main Street in Wexford Town. Originally a hardware store, the fledgling business evolved to move with the times, keeping pace with a rapidly changing Ireland.
Murt Snr's son, Derek, explains. 'My dad Murt started the business in 1944, during the war. We were a hardware store at first, but in the 50s, with the advent of rural electricity, we decided to expand to include electrical goods, so we had washing machines, cookers, vacuum cleaners, Hoover was a big brand for us. Then in the sixties we started stocking televisions, we had Bush TVs, Pye TVs, they were the main brands of the day.'
Ever keen to foster ties with major retailers and expand the business's horizons, Joyces forged a strong relationship with Calor Gas in the 70s, a union which led to plenty of hard days' graft for Derek and brother, Murt Jnr. 'We started selling gas cookers with Calor and I can recall many a cold morning unloading 40 foot trucks full of gas canisters,' says Derek.
With the business continuing to grow, new premises were opened throughout Wexford Town, each offering different products to their loyal customers. But in 2005, the brothers decided to relocate to Clonard Retail Park, establishing a central hub in a new state-of-the-art premises.
And it is this mindset, this willingness to change, which Derek attributes their longevity to. 'It's about trying to identify what's going to happen. Our staff are trained to have the product knowledge and expertise required to help our customers. Technology has become a big part of the business. We were actually one of the first stores in the country to launch the iPad, 12 years ago.'
Combating the threat of large chain stores has been challenging, but this task has been made easier by the decision to join Expert Ireland, a multi-national organisation which combines marketing, purchasing and market information to ensure customers receive the best prices possible. Derek has since gone on to become a board member of Expert Ireland.
Ultimately though, Joyces wouldn't be here were it not for the loyalty of its customers, and this is something which Derek is acutely aware of.'We've received huge support from the local community over the years. We pride ourselves on our customer service, I'm on the floor every day with my brother Murt. We like to support local charities and clubs.' And the future? Is there a new generation of Joyces coming along to keep things going? 'I have two sons who help out. They'll hopefully take over at some point and ensure the business runs for three generations,' Derek confirmed.