Rowena Walsh

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Business merger: Daughter joins forces with her father, Ireland’s oldest retailer

Suzie Monaghan works with her inspiring father in the clothing business he founded 60 years ago, writes Rowena Walsh

Business merger: Daughter joins forces with her father, Ireland’s oldest retailer

Suzie Monaghan works with her inspiring father in the clothing business he founded 60 years ago, writes Rowena Walsh

When Suzie Monaghan was a teenager, she worked in her parents’ shop to earn pocket money. She never thought for a single moment that, decades later, she would be back happily working side by side with her father, Tom.

Now in his early 90s, Tom Monaghan is Ireland’s oldest retailer. He founded Monaghans Cashmere with his wife Teresa in the former Grafton Arcade in Dublin in 1960 and this year they are celebrating six decades in business.

Tom still comes to the store six days a week. “I collect him in the morning, we come in together and we go home together,” says Suzie. She says that her father has never thought about retirement and she believes that continuing to work has sustained him in mind, body, and spirit.

“Dad’s mind is incredibly sharp,” says Suzie.

I always say that he has three books in him because he has so much to teach us in business and in life in general. He’s an incredible listener, teacher, person.

He has been a great mentor to Suzie since she went back to work after having her two children, Hayley and Eddie, now 22 and 20, respectively.

Suzie found out she was pregnant six months after she got married. “At the time I was thinking ‘this is happening so fast,’ but now I’m delighted because I feel that at my age is a great age for my kids to be adults. I think we connect very well, and they’re very open with me.”

She says that she was very fortunate to stay at home when her children were born. By the time Hayley was 16, however, Suzie was beginning to feel low. “I felt like I had no place anymore. As the children got older, they needed me less. As much as I love coffee with the girls, I found myself getting bored, and I needed to do something else.”

Her father asked if she would consider working in the family business and she accepted his offer. It wasn’t what she had envisaged for herself years previously, but she loved the shop and she thinks it wasn’t as hard for her going back into the workplace as it might be for others.

“I have my mentors — Dad and John Reilly, director of Monaghans — surrounding me,” she says, “there’s a lot of comfort in that.”

She also thinks that your 50s is a great time to embark on a second career and that you’re never too old to listen to your father.

“I make notes on what my father tells me. The business has been around for 60 years, they know what they’re talking about. Sometimes we think that we know better, we don’t.

Times change, so you add your element to it, but the basics are always the same — a business is a business no matter what kind of business it is.

Three generations of the Monaghan family are now involved, and Suzie says that her daughter Hayley now “wears the cashmere I wore when I was her age. You keep it because the quality is so good, it just goes on and on”.

A few years ago, one of her father’s customers, a man from Texas, came into Monaghans with a jumper he had bought in 1960, the year the shop opened.

Before she had her children, Suzie had worked in interior design and loved exercising her creative muscle. She now flexes it with her own label called Suzie Monaghan Cashmere.

“You do have those moments of ‘oh my God, I hope this works out’ because this is all on my head. But Dad gave me the chance and thankfully it’s all worked out. I’m currently designing my collection for 2020.”

She says that it’s all about nostalgia, in tribute to her mother who died late last year.

“I thought after Mum having Alzheimer’s for so long that when she did pass, that it wouldn’t be as hard as it is. I miss her desperately, but she was an incredible woman and I always think now ‘what would Mum do?’

Dad always says that he sees a lot of Mum in me, which I do myself, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think I’ve got the best of both of them.

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