IT’S been said that for a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other, and that’s exactly the driving force behind McBrien’s Newsagents in Lisnaskea, and the essence of what it has offered its loyal and dedicated customers for almost 54 years.
With a reputation of being at the heart and soul of every aspect of community life, John McBrien and his wife Vanessa have gone from strength to strength together at the helm of this much-loved family business.
The late Hugh McBrien and his wife Kathleen took over the shop back in 1968 when John was only six months old and together lived as a family first below the shop and then above it along with his sisters Ann and Mary.
“My father and mother both worked extremely hard in the shop,” John told the Herald.
“They worked seven days a week and never took any holidays. They were up every morning at 5.30am to open the shop for 6 o’clock.
“At that stage my mother and father done all the work themselves and they kept the shop going until I left school when I was 17 and came into the shop.
“At that time my father had plans to renovate the shop and after a year or so of me coming into the shop we decided to renovate and modernise.”
Since then, John has renovated the shop on a number of occasions and it now stands at more than double the size of its originally form.
“About 13 years ago we brought the business into a new era with its biggest expansion yet, when I bought Rooney’s pub next door and knocked it into the shop.”
While John revealed that it was a “big thing” to take on at the time, the decision allowed his business to grow in the direction that he always wanted it to.
“It was always in my heart to expand the shop and to display a great collection of stuff,” he explained.
“We have about 24 card stands with a wide range of balloons suited to every party and big occasion.
“My father died 13 years ago and the day he passed away is the day that my mother finished in the shop.
“Up until that they worked every morning in the shop together, and I like to remember that he worked up until his time at the age of 82.
“Once my father passed, that’s when Vanessa my wife really got into the shop. The expansion of the shop and going into the big helium balloons and displays were all Vanessa’s idea and she’s brilliant at it.
“We’re always looking for new products and we’ve built on that over the years as trends have changed.”
Known to many as the shop that has everything, John says that the loyalty of customers both young and old has kept his business “going strong” to this day.
“The customer interaction and big occasions is what keeps us going. We’ve had some great times in the shop over the years and I wouldn’t change a single thing,” he said.
“It was great that we could keep the shop open during Covid as an essential service. Customers were coming in here even if it was just for a chat which many needed at the time.
“Family businesses are getting fewer and people appreciate that element. My mother is 86 now and still comes into the shop to do wee things to help out.
“She just loves getting into her car and coming here to pick up a paper and say hello to me and whoever else is in the shop.
“We’ve also had some great members of staff down through the years, especially with the help of my sister Mary and Geraldine Leonard who has been with us for 25 years.
“People have supported us so much over the years, and I firmly believe that if you look after your customers they’ll always come back to you and we try our best everyday.
“We have seen generations of different families pass through our doors, somebody actually came in last week and when their mobile phone rang they answered and said, ‘I’m just in Hughie’s here’ and I smiled.
“It takes me back and it’s nice to hear that people remember my father and you know that they are continuing to come back after all these years. It’s just great.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition