By Caoimhe Killeen
“Here we go again” was the main sentiment that was no doubt echoed in households across the country, as Taoiseach Micheal Martin confirmed that Level 5 restrictions were to be imposed for a six-week period nationwide. And once again, for a lot of businesses here in Galway, a forced temporary closure. Some businesses deemed as “non-essential retail” may find this second lockdown more challenging than the last, especially smaller businesses who truly thrive on being self-sufficient. For one Galway business, that is certainly the case.
Bell, Book, and Candle is an independent bookshop and record store tucked away in the Small Crane, just off Sea Road. Set up by Paul Deacy in the 90’s, the shop prides itself on its large second-hand book collection as well as its impressive record collection. Paul’s initial reaction to the first nationwide lockdown back in March back when cases were only in the double digits was that of fear.
“I was worried that my shop would become irrelevant, that people would get used to not having the shop around” recalled Paul from behind the main counter the morning after the Taoiseach’s announcement. “So that at whatever stage I was going to reopen, a lot of people would have moved onto Kindles and all of those electronic options that I suppose I compete with in a weird sort of way. So yeah, I was afraid.”
Thankfully, this did not turn out to be the case. As soon as the shop was legally allowed to reopen, the Galway community seemed to take on the message of shopping and supporting local businesses. For Bell, Book and Candle, the process happened naturally without putting out any prompts. Paul admitted that he was shocked “at the amount of people who started shopping local and I’m shocked that people actually came into my shop…there’s still an awful lot of people still in lockdown that weren’t back at their jobs and I am. I was impressed, and I’m thankful to those people who decided that instead of going out of town to do their shopping, that they took the time to come in and walk around the shop.”
Unfortunately, the generosity of his Galway customers will be cut short by the current Level 5 restrictions that will be in effect until the end of the month. Paul has had to find ways to be creative in how he can keep the business running over the second lockdown because Bell, Book and Candle currently does not have a website. He plans to use the Instagram page for the business with a following of over 800 people, as a lot of his customers view the page and tend to ring up the shop when they see something they want. Sometimes, the books are even sold over the Instagram page. However, an older yet classic approach is often used by Paul–the shop window display which normally changes once a week. He also relies on Ernie’s’ shop just around the corner as a display for some of his stock, as it is a business run by his family.
“I feel that they made the shop keep a little bit relevant... I don’t want the shop to leave people’s minds, I want people to keep remembering the shop and the window keeps the shop fresh and alive.” Yet, he notes that the shop still has a good few regular customers and that creating a website sometime in the future may help in making the shop even busier.
On the topic of customers, Paul hopes that lockdown will also be reverted to Level 3 on December 1st in time for Christmas. In his opinion, Christmas will allow Bell, Book and Candle to survive all the way to next March. “January is always a busy month, not as busy as Christmas. A lot of people who have been reading over the holidays will keep it up into January, so January is always busy. But February is really quiet and income from Christmas helps to pay the bills in the heavy winter months, so hopefully I’ll be open for Christmas.”
On a parting note, Paul seemed to also empathise with students who are currently faced with online learning. “I know it’s hard to be self-motivated and if you’re attending lectures online and in isolation, and not in the canteen solving the problems of the world, it can be hard. So, if you’re studying and at home, it can be hard to be motivated!”