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