DERVILLA Evans runs The Ennis Bookshop at Abbey St, Ennis, Co Clare, along with her husband Feargal Ó Dualaing and mother Mary Evans.
How long have you been in business?
The shop was started by my dad Michael in 1972; he was in a partnership with another man at that stage. Then my mum Mary go t involved a few years later. They started off in a small premises and we moved to where we are now in the early 80s. I came back into the business in 1989 and we expanded it then, to the size it is now. Mum is still involved at the kitchen table. She’s still great with the advice and everything. I think when it’s a family business, that will always be there, which is lovely. It’s the kind of experience that you can’t get from anyone else. My dad passed away ten years ago; I still pick up pieces of paper here with his handwriting, which is lovely, that he still has a presence here.
How did you come on board?
I went to college in Galway, did a B Comm and then I worked in Westport for three years. I was away for six years and then mum and dad were thinking of expanding and asked me if I had any interest and with the B Comm background, I said yes. I never looked back, it’s been 30 years and it doesn’t feel like that. My brothers tease me that I don’t actually work because I enjoy what I do so much. I love it, every day is different. My mum said ‘you’ll never make a fortune but you will meet lovely people’. My husband Feargal came back into the business in 2012, which also makes it easier, having that support. Mind you, we do talk work late into the night, which is not good. Certainly my kids are learning a lot about business.
What do you sell in the shop?
As well as books, we also sell gifts, stationary, and cards. It is a mix that works.
What’s your customer profile like?
We have a real mix of customers, right across ages. We sell a lot of children’s books, we do a lot of work with schools, and we all love children’s books. It is so exciting when a child comes in and they don’t want to read but you find them that one book. I love seeing them being enthusiastic about a book and dying to tell you about the story and then wanting something else. I just love working with parents and trying to get encourage their kids to read. It’s a nice part of the job.
What is Ennis like to do business in?
Ennis is a lovely, historic town. It has lovely narrow streets and is a really nice place to shop. We get a lot of tourists during the summer and we cater for them as well with Irish interest books. Retail is challenging everywhere now but there is a lovely community spirit here among the traders, working together.
How has online retail affected the business?
It’s just part of life, but there is a different experience when you go shopping in the town and interact with people and that is what we try to get across. I think every business has been affected by online retail — you just have to keep making yourself different. You have to keep adding something that people aren’t going to get online. Retailers have to offer a whole experience — it’s not just about purchasing a product. It keeps us on our toes.
You have been in business for almost 50 years. What is the secret of your success?
We would see ourselves as being a community bookshop, we love to support all the local authors, have events, signings and all of that. Over the years we have had the most amazing people. This year we have had or will have three of the nominees for the An Post book awards — Niall Williams [This is Happiness], Mike Hanrahan [Beautiful Affair] and Brian O’Connell who wrote The Personals is coming in soon. We are always trying to stay fresh and that’s the part of it I love. I love organising the events. We have all the business side, paying our bills and all of that, which is a challenge. But because I love working with books, all of that is not so hard. If it was a product I didn’t love, maybe it would be harder. We also have Brexit coming up and all of that. I think I just like a challenge, it keeps the brain working.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
In terms of more recent ones, I loved Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. Also When All is Said by Anne Griffin. And I am also enjoying The Beekeeper of Aleppo [Christy Lefteri] which I am reading at the moment.