Iconic shoe shop closes

After 58 years in business, one of Cork’s best known family businesses is to close.

Instantly recognised by its Art Deco lime green frontage and 1950s-style interior, O’Connor’s shoe shop on Oliver Plunkett St began a closing down sale two days ago. By yesterday, its shelves were near empty.

A typed note on the shopfront informed shoppers it was only “after serious deliberations” the family decided to close up shop, blaming their decision on “events beyond our control” — namely, the economic downturn.

Finbarr O’Connor said: “It started when the city centre streets were all dug up for the Main Drainage Scheme. It was impossible to shop in the city centre. Now, there is no money out there. And then there’s the high cost for people of parking in the city and, for the traders, high rent and rates.

“The bad weather this summer was the last straw. The city centre just isn’t doing business.”

Founded by his father Daniel O’Connor, it was the only shoe shop on Oliver Plunkett St when it first opened.

Finbarr and his brother Francis have run the shop since their father stepped down. They also employed two part-time staff.

Finbarr said: “We were well-established but it is impossible to keep going with the country the way it is and it’s only going to get worse. PRSI is going up, Vat is going up, ESB is going up. People have no money to spend.

“It’s a no-win situation. Nobody is doing anything to help the retail sector, not the Government, not City Hall. Nobody,” he said.

Cork Chamber of Commerce chief executive Conor Healy said it was “very disappointing” to see such well established businesses closing. “The big challenge for anyone in the retail sector is consumer confidence and the lack thereof. It’s no different in Cork to any other city in the country,” he said.

“The Government needs to remember this as we move closer to the budget. A balance must be struck between cost cutting and instilling huge fear into ordinary people. If people get increasingly scared, we will just see more closures”.

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