A huge sense of pride abounds in Longford town following the opening of the new Spirit store on Longford's Main Street last Thursday.
In part there's a nostalgic element to it as the store has opened in the old Dunnes Stores building.
So many young people grew up having been whisked in and out of that Dunnes Stores building before it moved to the Dublin Road.
For the best part of fifteen years the building has remained empty and that emptiness was a reflection of the decline and demiss of Longford town and so the enthusiastically awaited opening last week signalled the strong indication yet that Longford is on the way back.
From early morning a large crowd gathered outside the store just as they had done when Dunnes Stores opened there in the early 1970s.
The opening has had a transformative and immediate impact on what was one of the most challenged areas of the town and there is no doubt but the Spirit move might well be the kickstart that Lower Main Street has been desperately searching for.
“We grew up in Longford town. We are raising our families in Longford. For Joe and I there is no better place to do business or live. We love Longford and it is a huge source of pride for us that Spirit can be a flagship store and a standard bearer for the town,” says Peter Dolan.
For more than twenty years Joe and Peter have seen multiple businesses close in the town. Each one was a blow and says Joe:
“Every business closing diminished the offer. We want to see more businesses, more options for the shopper; more places to eat and drink because we believe in Longford and, when given a chance, Longford has an experience to rival anything in Ireland.”
Joe and Peter were determined to get the old Dunnes building for their new store.
Says Peter: “We could have opened elsewhere but this location is iconic and I do believe it is representing a turning point for the town. All weekend people told us their own stories of the old Dunnes and it was really heart warming to be able to share that connection.”
There is no question that the move to Main Street by Spirit will be a huge boost for Lower Main Street.
With the planned development of the old Providers building and the development of the Omniplex building alongside the empty shopping centre, this sector of the town looks set to be in the driving seat in the years ahead.
For the best part of the 25 years which they have been in business, both Joe and Peter have been hugely supportive of all other businesses in the town.
Says Peter: “It has been challenging and it hasn’t been easy and the problems we faced were no different than any of the other businesses. The hope is that people will come back to shop in Longford and Spirit and visit other stores as well.”