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Dungloe shop celebrates 100 years in business

A Dungloe shop will mark a massive milestone this weekend when they celebrate 100 years in business.

Bonner’s Shop on the Main Street has been a fixture in the town over the last century having started as a grocery business established by Johnny Walsh in 1922.

Johnny Walsh (1889 – 1973) contributed massively to the community during his lifetime. He was President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians; Peace Commissioner; share holder in Rosses Bakery; secretary of the Parochial Hall committee and building of the Parochial Hall committee member; AOH secretary and band leader 237 Division; secretary of Dungloe Town Improvements committee; IRA Chairman of the battalion Council and Éire Eggs Act committee member.

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The business started out on the Carnmore Road before the Bridge property was bought in 1939 for £450.

To stock the shelves Johnny Walsh purchased his first order from a wholesaler in Bunbeg which came to £75.

In 1926 Johnny married Cissie O’Donnell, White House, Sheskinarone and they had one child, Sally who was born in 1931. Sally married Charlie Bonner, Crolly in 1956 and the couple took over the business in 1972.

At that time the shop was developed into two floors and the mini supermarket sold groceries, fishing tackle and sweets among other items. As time moved on they turned their attention to toys and began selling souvenirs.

In 1990 Sally and Charlie’s son Kevin took over the business and is still at the helm today.

MILESTONE

Speaking to the Donegal News this week Kevin Bonner said it means a great deal that the family business has reached this milestone.

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When Kevin took over in the ’90s times were changing in terms of groceries with competition from The Cope, SuperValu, Aldi and Lidl.

“It came to the stage for me either I close or I restructure the shop which I did,” said Kevin.

“What I was buying groceries for they were selling them at. I put toys upstairs with arts and crafts, fishing tackle and I went more into leisure wear.

“I redone the shelving, counters, and carpet to modernise it. My parents had done their best but I thought I have to move with the times or I will be left behind.

“To reach a milestone like this means the moon to me.”

Some of Kevin’s fondest memories of working in the shop were during the Mary from Dungloe Festival when the town was buzzing.

One memory that comes to mind is when his father ran the shop and they stayed open until 2am one morning waiting for the Mary to come down the Main Street.

“We were the only shop open at that hour of the morning. He would not close because there were people about. Back in them days we had 24 Marys and it was two nights. The buzz was on the Main Street. You were selling cigarettes and ice-cream,” he recalled.

Asked what the family owe their success to Kevin said it is down to their attitude to their loyal customers.

“My grandfather would have kept tobacco, bread and milk, which would have been scarce back then, for the country people,” said Kevin.

WAR YEARS

“He looked after them and they looked after him. It was the country people that more or less kept him going at the very start and through the war years.

“We had a big range of customers when we had the mini supermarket and people who came in were from the country and it was brilliant to see every Friday, Saturday or even after church on a Sunday. You would have a chat about this and that.”

On Saturday a special celebration will be held to mark the opening of the business in 1922.

Reigning Mary from Dungloe, Roisin Maher will cut the ribbon and the cake and there will displays telling the impressive history of Bonner’s Shop.

Kevin has been working with a historian to retell his grandfather Johnny Walsh’s story who he describes as “a man of the town”. A book is due to be released later this year that will tell this story as well as provide a history of the AOH and angling in the area.

“The main thing I wanted to do is honour my grandfather Johnny Walsh,” added Kevin.

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