Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Phoenix from the Flood- Iconic Dublin store reopens

The iconic Clerys clock

Iconic grand-dame of Dublin retail, Clerys department store is set to reopen on this Thursday, November 21st-and amid plenty of fanfare and festive cheer, I suspect- dispelling with glamour and glee, the persistent rumours that the store was yet another victim of the recession, and to close permanently. The store, which first opened in 1853, was one of the world's first purpose-built department stores, and the exquisitely designed building was inspired by and modelled closely on the famous Selfridges department store on London's Oxford street.

The store was bought in 1941 by the Guiney family whom single-handedly ran it for 70 years- a remarkable feat, I think, during a period when Ireland was just a developing country with no booming economy to assist the survival of large retailers like Clerys. Ironically, Clerys was a benefactor and victim of the Celtic Tiger- sadly going into receivership in 2012, and forcing the Guiney family to sell the family silver. US company, Gordon Brothers stepped in and took over the the store, instated a new managerial team and began steering the store back into the glossy, good times once again.

The fashionistas and nostalgics of Ireland collectively breathed a stylish sigh of relief. Clerys would soldier on and weather the recession like the rest of us- and keep the country looking its best, as it had done for 160 years, to boot. Cue the infamous Irish weather- and the biblical storms and flooding which battered the building in July (of all months!) of this year destroying the interior of the historical, listed building and causing part of the roof to cave in! The newspapers and media were rife with rumours that this was the final nail in the coffin for Clerys- and with the grand old doors sealed shut and all of the staff laid off indefinitely, an air of gloom and mystery surrounded the Dublin style institution. The papered up windows concealing what was metamorphosing within- and the minimal information surrounding the store's future all added to the speculation on the Irish capital's streets and the rising curousity was akin to the secrecy and mystery associated with Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, where like Clerys- nobody was ever seen going in or coming out!

Some weeks ago, when hope of a triumphant comeback had all but disappeared, word filtered through that a pop-up shop would be opening at the back of Clerys, on North Earl street in anticipation of a grand reopening date which had yet to be confirmed. The pop-up shop quelled all fears of of Clerys permanent closure - and provided a sort of 'counselling service' for those loyal Clerys customers traumatised by the void left by Clerys absence from O'Connell street and Dublin retail.
Customers were invited to write and stick a Post-it note on a special Memory Wall, and to share their past memories of Clerys- a really lovely idea which I saw with my own eyes when I visited the pop-up myself recently. And who knows- maybe it prevented some demented Clerys fans from tipping over the edge with all the mystery and suspense endured over the last few months of a 'Cleryless' Dublin!

And so it has been confirmed that Clerys will reopen Thursday, November 21st, welcoming Dublin and the world back in through it's historical doors in time for the festive season and Christmas shopping rush. The urge to satisfy my curiosity ( I'll finally get to see what on earth was happening behind those papered-up windows!) and get my Christmas shopping off to a stylish start will see me back in the atmospheric city centre this weekend and exploring a brand new, revitalised Clerys.The legendary, ornate clock embedded in Clerys stunning facade (an historic Dublin landmark and famous romantic meeting point in bygone, pre-mobile phone days) will call time on closure and misfortune when the store reopens it's doors and a new chapter in its history tomorrow. Welcome back Clerys!

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