Philip and Rita say goodbye to the street and their customers
Nenagh couple Philip and Rita Ryan, who have operated Philip’s Carpets and Furniture Store in the town for the past 36 years, have decided to close their Pearse Street store and take a well-earned break after half a century of working life.
Philip and Rita recently announced a huge closing down sale at their highly popular shop and are both looking forward to a new and exciting chapter in their lives.
“As we prepare for a different time in our lives we just want to thank the people of the town and surrounds for the great business they have given us down through the years, and to all our staff and former staff who were fantastic,” Philip told this newspaper.
“The people have been absolutely marvellous for the past 36 years. We have the adult children of people who did business with us when we first opened now coming in to buy furniture and carpets. To be still getting the business from the second generation, we are very much appreciative of that.”
A native of Soloheadbeg, Philip started his working life exactly 50 years ago when he secured a job as a barman in nearby Tipperary Town. “I always remember the year well because Tipperary beat Kilkenny in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final and it was Dinny Ryan from my own division in West Tipperary who scored the famous goal that sealed it for Tipp,” recounts Philip, who is an ardent supporter of the Premier County and loves going to hurling matches.
Later Philip moved to Limerick City, the place where he met Rita, a native, and where he managed bars in two of the city’s largest hotels, The Glentworth and The Savoy.
He later moved on to become bar manager in both the West Lodge Hotel in Bantry and the Greville Arms in Mullingar.
After that came a radical change in career. “The hours in the bar and hotel sector were crazy and so I was glad to eventually get a new job in Kilroy’s furniture store in Mullingar,” he says.
He and Rita ultimately ended up in Nenagh when Kilroys appointed him Manager of their store, operating out of the old Rialto Cinema building in Banba Square.
The store traded very successfully for a number of years, but the economic recession in the early 1980s sparked closure in 1984, much to the shock and disappointment of Philip and Rita as they were starting their family.
“I will always remember that era,” says Philip. “It was a terrible time economically for the entire country, and for Nenagh itself. Not alone did Kilroy’s close, but Mogul Mines and Castle Brand in Tyone as well. A thousand jobs were lost in Nenagh in a very short time and the town was really suffering.”
While being out of work was a misfortune, it spurred the couple on to make yet another bold move: They decided to take a gamble and open their own furniture store.
Says Philip: “I remember at the time when myself and Rita were opening up our store there were lots of other shops closing down due to the recession.
“Times were very hard, but we started off small and worked our way up, opening up our new shop in a premises we rented at 37 Pearse Street from the late Annette Tobin.
“We were there for 20 years and our landlord Annette was fantastic to us, because they were tough times,” recalls Philip, whose present store is located just 100 metres away on the same street at Number 59.
“Our lease on our current premises is now coming to an end after six years here, but again in this instance, too, our landlord has been great to us,” Philip says as he reports brisk trading during the current closing down sale.
Asked if he was now ready to retire gracefully, Philip said nothing could be further from his mind. “Rita and I are just looking forward to a bit of rest after working all the years. For us, like for so many in business, operating the store has meant working six days a week, twelve hours a day. We were delighted to do it to serve the people, but now the time is perfect to take a bit of a break and we will then look at our options after that.”
Like her parents, the couple’s daughter Susan Ryan has also opted for self employment. She runs her own successful award-winning travel business in Nenagh, Susan Ryan Travel Counsellor, and now Philip and Rita are looking forward to availing of her services as they plan a well earned holiday.
Their son Thomas is an award winning film director and their other daughter, Michelle, works in HR. They also have two grandsons, so they will be kept very busy after the store closes.
With a firm reputation as an enterprising and hard worker, it’s little surprise when Philip confides that he has already received two job offers.
As he and Rita prepare to move on, they want to thank all their customers for their loyal support over the last 36 years.
One of the things Philip would like to do as he gets ready to take life a little easier is re-introduce himself to angling. “I used to fish with my late father when a I was a youngster growing up in Solohead,” he says, before revealing a little local folklore. “Legend has it that a Pope came to fish in Solohead and hooked into a fish so large it pulled him into the river and he drowned. And that’s how Pope’s Bridge in Solohead got its name.”
Having been in business in Nenagh for such a long time, Philip says there are few better places. “Nenagh is fantastic and it’s better its going to get. The town badly needs houses, but has great things going for it with tourist attractions and a town that is good for business.”
For young people contemplating a career in retailing or other forms of business, Philip has some sound advice: “The most important thing is to stick by your word. Be honest with people, tell them when you will do the job and complete the task at the appointed time.
“The three vital ingredients are an appetite for hard work, common sense and honesty. And, no matter how bad things get, you have to keep at it.”
Meanwhile, on the question of work ethic and job opportunities in the Ireland of today, he offers the opinion that “anyone who wants to work will get work. There’s plenty of work to be had.”
Philip concludes: “We have been a long time in business and overall we are happy with our achievements,” adding that he and Rita will be sad leaving the street as they both enjoyed all their years in the town of Nenagh.