Aladdin's Cave of goods in Enniscorthy
PSST! YES, YOU! Want to buy recording of a Shostakovich symphony, only slightly used? Or how about a second-hand Starlights jersey, will fit child under ten? You need set of Encyclopaedia Britannica – it too can be yours! Welcome to the charity shop scene in Enniscorthy where everything from an ear-ring to a suite of armchairs is on offer at bargain rates.
Mrs. Quin's shop manager John O'Rourke recalls that his emporium on Court Street was once the only one of its kind in the town. It was established a dozen years back, the first in a chain of over eighty branches now run by N.C.B.I. But competition in Enniscorthy has reached saturation point of late, with no less than six rival concerns now looking for donations of the best clothes and the best bric-abrac.
All six charity shops sell clothes, across the range from jeans to evening dresses. Perhaps it is the recession or perhaps it is the arrival of so many rivals but John O'Rourke reports that where once Mrs. Quin's would receive more than twenty bags of clothes from donors every week, now the volume has dropped to three or four bags.
At least the death knell of the Celtic Tiger signalled a rise in the number of volunteers ready to fill out his staff roster and keep the place looking really smart.
Around the corner in Weafer Street, the Second to None has the feel of an Aladdin's Cave, stocking a range that embraces a strange little red enamel teapot and box-loads of candles that are empathically not pre-owned. The place raises funds to help the aged and acts as a distribution centre for sensor warning devices to old people.
Directly across the street is Chernobyl Orphanages, under the direction of John Bernie. They were doing well enough to open a second shop at the beginning of the summer after the premises next door fell vacant. Now both units are well filled with items across the idiosyncratic range from fluffy orange slippers to knitting sets for beginners.
The Touched by Suicide organisation turned to retailing – not only in Enniscorthy but also in Tullow – in order to finance its helpline and support services. Behind a shop window on Castle Hill that features an impossibly glamorous red dress, Denise Hewitt is in charge. She has a pair of high-heeled, lethally pointed evening shoes in a tasteful shade of pale aubergine – a must-buy at €4. And she can even find a vaguely matching ball gown, if required.
'People are good and we thank those who support,' says the manager, revealing that donors and buyers often include Riverside Park hotel guests who must find Denise's offerings a fascinating contrast to the shops in Dublin. ' There is no rivalry between the different charity shops. Everyone has to do what they can for the community.'
Not far away, in Mill Park Road, Anne Marsh runs the charity equivalent of Brown Thomas. Her HOPE cancer support shop has 40 volunteers on the book. Some put in just one four hour shift, while others work up to sixteen hours in the week.
'People come in for both the cause and the bargains,' reckons Ann.
Obviously, the shops all prefer good, clean easily re-saleable items but even the worst of clothes, bags and shoes are worth a few bob on the wholesale re-cycling market.
'People don't really use us as dumping grounds,' says Martina Freeman, a few doors along Mill Park Road in the Irish Wheelchair Association outlet. She explains how the I.W.A. moved from Weafer Street two years ago in order to have the space to display furniture.