‘I wanted to do this for me and other mothers like me’

EILISH Haigh has always dreamt of opening a shop and living by the seaside.
And, in just a few short weeks the mother-of-two will see her dreams come true when she opens the doors of a boutique with a difference in the former Post Office premises in Bunbeg.
Like for many others, Eilish found lockdown particularly challenging. Mother to Noel, who has Down Syndrome and autism, she wanted to put her experience of ‘pop-up’ shops to a more permanent use. At the heart of her plan was to help other ‘special needs mums’ for whom shopping is not an enjoyable experience.
‘Buítíc Eilish’ will launch on Thursday, August 5, and will officially open the following day. With a sensory corner, special changing facilities and wheelchair friendly access, the boutique boasts inclusivity.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Eilish, who moved to Donegal from the UK six years ago, said: “I wanted to do this for me and other mothers like me who can’t go shopping without being riddled with guilt. I can go into somewhere like Penney’s but it is with military precision and it’s rushed. I don’t get the endorphins from the experience. I want more than just throwing some socks into a brown paper bag.
“During the first lockdown I had all this time on my hands. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know if I was brave enough to do it,” said Eilish.
After speaking with a local woman who told her about what her own single mother had achieved, Eilish said the very next day she set about viewing premises. She met the owner of the former post office, Nicola Harkin.
“I was honest with her and told her of my plans but that I had no money to pay rent until I opened the shop. I am on Single Parent Benefit and I can’t get money from the bank. Nicola told me she wouldn’t take any rent until the day I open, and that was the ball set in motion.”
While Eilish has kept many of the original post office features, she has recycled and upcycled to decorate the premises.
“I found flooring in the attic, and things from skips, pits and dumps that I have recycled and upcycled. The Credit Union gave me €7,000,  €5,000 of which I used for stock and the other €2,000 I have made stretch like no-one has stretched money before.”
Eilish also received some funding from Údarás na Gaeltachta.
“My shop is not just a shop. It has a sensory corner, it is wheelchair friendly, and it has a ladies changing room with 3D wallpaper, a sensory corner with astro turf, and a four foot sensory lamp so that mummys like me can get to go shopping and enjoy the experience in its entirety.”
Help and support has come from far and wide within the community for Eilish. Fran O’Boyle is putting the finishing touches to an optical illusion 3D mural on the outside of her premises.
Eilish will stock her boutique with items including clothing in all sizes, jewellery, and Converse trainers which she has sourced from outlet stores in England.  She will have stock from well known brands including River Island, Warehouse, Laura Ashley and Marks and Spencer. Eilish says people should not be ‘put off’ by the word boutique, which really is representative of a shopping experience rather than the expense of what is being purchased.
“A boutique is all about that one to one feeling and shopping experience and whether you buy something for €5 or €50 you leave the shop with it in a nice bag wrapped in tissue paper. It’s about making someone feel special and important.
“I also have a special machine which sanitises clothing allowing customers to try them on in my shop rather than having to take them home  to try them on. It is all about in keeping with the shopping experience.”
Eilish’s boutique will be rooted in the community and is for the entire community.
“I describe myself as a special needs mummy and to this end I wanted to give an opportunity to those with learning difficulties to be involved in my boutique. I have three ladies from Dungloe who will be starting in my shop from September doing an hour a week. It’s an opportunity for them to meet others.”
Eilish will hold a small get together in her shop on Thursday, August 5 with a few local people, girlfriends and local politicians invited. She will formally open Buítíc Eilish the following day.
“I am nearly 50 and I haven’t danced in a long time but I will be dancing to Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac when I open this shop.
“I have always had a dream and that is to live by the seaside and have my own shop and now I have them both.”

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