WHILE A body blow has been dealt in Belleek with the closure of Shannagh nursing home this week and the loss of up to 40 jobs – small businesses in the area are bucking the trend.
The border village has seen three new businesses open since the end of last year – along with the expansion of another.
The news businesses include: Temple Beauty, The Forge restaurant, The Lemon Tree Coffee House – and the expansion of Belleek Motor Supplies.
At the top of the village, ‘The Forge’ restaurant has four staff along with family, and has been open since May, as owner Valerie Naylor explained.
“We opened on the last week in April. This premises came up for sale and I decided that Belleek could do with a restaurant like this. It took a while to get planning permission – so it took a while for things to get going.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision – Belleek, like a lot of places, was going down – places were closing and there was a dismal feeling.”
She added that her hope was to help keep the area alive.
“Other businesses started opening: The Lemon Tree, and Motor Supplies expanded.
“I think people decided not to let Belleek go down, it’s always been a busy village. It’s a busy spot. The response for us has been very good – I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as what it is.”
Family-run ‘The Lemon Tree’ opened at the end of 2013.
Owner Seamus Rooney said: “I’ve been in catering all my life – we felt there was an opening for this type of business in the area.
“It’s been quite good, very positive – it has gone down well. We’re trying to create a niche market for ourselves.”
Seamus said that he has had a mix of tourists and locals in using the business, and on the decision to open up added: “You have to move forward, you can’t keep looking in the past – people have to live.”
Shirley McGrath, who opened Temple Beauty described it as ‘the right time to start out on my own’.
She opened in early June and described the response as ‘brilliant’.
“I was overwhelmed at how kind everyone has been and that’s a great boost when you take the risk of opening your own business.
“Belleek is a busy little village and it is very welcoming, it does very well especially with it being a border village, we get a lot of custom from Donegal and beyond.
“It is definitely a positive sign that so many businesses have opened recently, it shows that peoples spirits have lifted and we want to do better as a community and leave the doom and gloom of recession behind.”
And, Damien Neill – whose business Belleek Motor Supplies stretches back to 1982 – has seen positive shoots over the last few months to finally allow him to expand his business on the main street.
“The old shop was quite small. We moved into this premises just two weeks ago. Things had been going well for us and we needed more room.
“We’re able to spread the stock out better. We’ve wanted to do it for years and this place came up so we thought we’d move.
“Things have been up and down for everybody. It’s tough going at times but the main thing is that businesses are still going. For us the past couple of months have been very good.”
And he was happy to see positives in business in the area: “The more businesses going, the better – it’s obviously better that you have businesses open than in darkness.
“It’s good surely, it gives employment and everything else.”
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