Kinsale's much loved bookshop closes - Whats On In West Cork

Kinsale's much loved bookshop closes

David Caldwell 12:46 12 Jul 2021


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A chapter has come to an end for Kinsale's much loved bookshop which has closed its doors after 33 years. It is a trend which is accelerating in West Cork where an already fragile seasonal economy has been badly hit by the Covid Pandemic and local businesses struggle to compete with internet businesses which pay no rates or indeed any Irish taxes.

The Kinsale Bookshop has tried to adapt with a Click and Collect service but so much of the bookshop experience is social with the ability to browse, ask advice and meet with friends. Also many owners, like Liam Barrett and his wife Heather are getting to retirement age and the stresses and strains of Covid have led many people to revaluate their lives. So many of the hospitality and personal businesses in West Cork will simply not be there when visitors return. In Clonakilty a bookshop has also closed its doors for good.

A bookshop is a “little bit like the local pub – there’s no moments of silence in a bookshop”, said Liam Barrett, who has closed his Kinsale bookstore as he embarks on his retirement. Mr Barrett and his wife Heather have closed the treasured bookstore on Main Street in the Cork. During that time, their customers have included Michael Jackson and former US President Bill Clinton. When he opened the shop in 1988, the now 77-year-old saw it as a way to combine his hobby with a business opportunity. “There was no bookshop in Kinsale at the time and I had a serious interest in literature, reading and the fun of running a bookshop.”

In 2007, the late Michael Jackson and his children visited the shop while staying outside the town. “One day we got a request from his representative that his family would like to buy some books. He needed exclusivity so we closed the bookshop early on the afternoon and put black bags on the windows to block out people from looking in. Michael Jackson spent the best part of an hour with his children browsing the bookshop and they bought a considerable amount of children’s books. Our staff said he was a really lovely person and it was a great experience,” said Mr Barrett.

On another occasion Bill Clinton stopped by to pick up a book after playing a round of golf at the Old Head golf course in 2012. “Bill was very friendly to the staff and he was delighted to buy local,” said Mr Barrett, who added that the beauty of a bookshop is that “you never knew who would walk in”.

“We had wonderful support from the local community,” Mr. Barrett said. “A bookshop like that being at the centre of the community is a little bit like the local pub, you meet everybody coming and going and everybody chats, there’s no moments of silence in a bookshop. People were always friendly and talked about their interests and what they read.”

So will it be a new chapter, a newly-penned sequel, or a surprise ending in the case of the sale of 8 Main Street, in Kinsale town centre?

Newly listed for sale at €475k, No 8 has traded as Kinsale Bookshop since 1998, run by Liam Barrett, a one-time owner of Blackrock Castle. He started the business just a year before actor Hugh Grant gave bookshop-ownership a starry twist in the 1999 movie Notting Hill with co-star Julia Roberts. It includes a spacious 2/3 bedroom apartment with separate access. The Kinsale bookshop has been in business since being set up in 1998.

The description for the property on daft.ie says: "The arrival to the market of Kinsale Bookshop offers a unique opportunity to acquire a prominent retail premises with traditional shopfront, display windows and residential on the first and second floor located in the centre of the historic town of Kinsale.

Any takers for this business as is or as a bookshop / café?

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