Hanging Heart at Kelly’s of Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 273

There is something absolutely heartbreaking about long-standing family businesses closing down due to the economic recession and unfortunately it has become an every day occurrence over the last four or five years.

Today, I paid a sad visit to Kelly’s Store on the Quay in Waterford which is due to close very shortly, having been in operation since 1847.

Kelly's, The Quay, Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne
Kelly’s,The Quay, Waterford.
Photograph: Patrick Browne (Irish Times)

Kelly’s was a leading ladies’ fashion house in Waterford City and also had a most attractive ‘gift’ department which stocked a wonderful array of Irish produce, including crystal, rugs, perfumes, jewelry, candles ….

I was introduced to Kelly’s by my late mother who had been a customer there from when she first came to Waterford in the 1940s. I associate it very much with what she and I called our ‘girl’s outings’ which invariably brought us to Kelly’s in search of ‘style.’ There was always a great range from which to choose and I don’t think there was ever a time that we didn’t leave with at least one of the highly distinguishable yellow Kelly’s bags with slim rope handles.

After Mother died in 2009, I continued to shop in Kelly’s, especially for handbags, scarves and charms for a bracelet which I use to mark important milestones.

Somehow, I just couldn’t let Kelly’s close without calling in to offer my sympathies and thanks for all the happy memories and great service. I met with Ian Doolan, the owner for the last thirty years, and my sadness paled into insignificance compared to his sense of loss of the business which has been his life and which he associates very much with his late father, Denis.

While we talked, the charm that pressed itself forward out of the display cabinet was one called ‘hanging heart.’

It seems that nothing can save Kelly’s from closure now but my fervent hope is that shoppers will make a determined effort to support local family businesses which have served us so well in towns and cities throughout Ireland for so many generations.

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

6 thoughts on “Hanging Heart at Kelly’s of Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 273”

  1. Very sad. Same situation over here. Several long-standing, family-run businesses in my neighborhood closed, only to be replaced by chain stores, Starbucks, etc. Despite an ongoing economic downturn, landlords on our main shopping street are charging outrageous rents for retail space that only the big chains can afford to pay.

  2. I too know Kellys well Jean but I have to say it has languished for many years. I agree about the stock but the ambiance, the atmosphere and the energy of the place was not in keeping with the more upbeat tempo of the last couple of decades. It was always empty when I visited of late. I dont want to appear to be a naysayer but I think the opportunity to use this space and generations of customer loyalty was missed I didnt see any sign of the nettle being grasped at Kellys. That is not to denigrate the pain and sorrow of passing.

    1. Anne, I suppose one of the things I really liked about Kelly’s was the fact that it operated at a slower more personalised pace than places with piped music, very bright lights and more impersonal approaches. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned??

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