Step back in time to Clarke’s shoe shop on Cul­ture Night

Irish Examiner - County - - News - Christy Parker

A re­tail style from a more com­posed era will be cel­e­brated when a Youghal florist in­vites the public onto her premises dur­ing Cul­ture Night.

Kays Flow­ers, at 136 North Main Street, was home to Clarke’s Shoes for over 90 years from the 1920s un­der the pro­pri­etor­ship of Leonard Clarke. Leonard died in 2014, aged 89, and was the fa­ther of Cork County Coun­cil roads en­gi­neer Dave Clarke. Leonard had taken over the busi­ness, at aged 16, from an un­cle, Wil­liam.

When Kay Curtin took oc­cu­pa­tion, she dis­cov­ered a trove of shoes and other para­pher­na­lia in­clud­ing dili­gently kept ledgers col­lat­ing decades of trans­ac­tions. “I even found my own mother’s ac­count from 1963,” she says.

More than any­thing, she dis­cov­ered a wealth of public af­fec­tion for the shop, with peo­ple con­tin­u­ally drop­ping by with rem­i­nis­cences.

“It was more than a shoe shop — it was a so­cial cen­tre,” she ex­plains. “So many peo­ple, lo­cally and from abroad, re­mem­ber their fam­i­lies buy­ing shoes here and of cus­tomers sit­ting around re­laxed and chat­ting.”

Dave de­scribes his dad as a very so­cial per­son who had “sim­ply loved hav­ing peo­ple around him”. His fa­ther also “knew his cus­tomers well in terms of what they needed and what they could pay. You sim­ply don’t get that kind of shop any­more,” said Dave. Many cus­tomers, he said, were ru­ral wives or moth­ers who brought home one shoe from each of sev­eral pairs and re­turned the un­wanted ones next day.

“There were peo­ple wear­ing Clarke’s shoes all their lives with­out ever hav­ing vis­ited the shop,” Dave be­lieves.

The shop’s widely re­garded rep­u­ta­tion is epit­o­mised by Dave’s story of a man look­ing for work on a Lon­don build­ing site: “When the fore­man heard he was from near Youghal, he asked if he knew Clarke’s. The man pointed to shoes he had bought a week be­fore. He was told to start Mon­day.”

Kay’s Flow­ers opens 6pm8pm this Fri­day night for mem­o­ries, mu­sic and light re­fresh­ment. Tel: 086-8874449.

Florist Kay Curtin looks back on Clarke’s shop in Youghal this Fri­day, na­tional Cul­ture Night

The late Leonard Clarke in his Youghal footwear store

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