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LAST OF LEIXLIP'S OLD STYLE GROCERS TO GO

Leinster Leader 9/7/1983
 
Last of Leixlip’s old style grocers to go
by
Maria Marron
 
 
 
The closure of Torley’s shop in Leixlip’s Main Street on September 15 will represent not only a significant break with the commercial history of the main street but the culmination of a difficult decision which had to be made by the present and last Torley incumbent in the shop, Miss Patricia Torley.
Torley’s, which is the last of the small type grocery stores in the town centre, and which has been in business for 61years, was recently put up for auction by Miss Torley, and the chances are that the new owners will demolish the existing building to erect a more modern premises, be it residential or commercial.
Many Leixlippians will mourn the demise of Torley’s where they were ensured personal service and a kind word down through the years, and already anticipating the closure of their local grocery store they are asking Patricia “What will we do when you’re gone?”
It was Patricia’s father who started the grocery business in the Main St., after the R.I.C. disbanded, more than six decades ago. Originally from Co. Mayo, he had once been stationed in Leixlip, where the old R.I.C. barracks was located in a house at the rear of Casey’s factory just off the Main St., and behind what was later to become Torley’s grocery.When Mr. Torley died in 1937, Patricia, her mother, and her sister, Eileen, who died in 1966, kept on the business, selling all types of groceries as well as newspapers, cigarettes and tobacco.Saying that she is about the last of the old style grocers in the village, Patricia says that Dowdall’s, a similar type grocery, closed last year. The pattern of business, she says, has changed in recent years, and the advent of the large supermarkets is culpable for much of that change. “We noticed a change when Gubay’s (now Tesco) came to Lucan” says Patricia, and although she and other grocers, were affected by the diversion of some of the business to the supermarket chain, she didn’t try very hard to recapture fall-off. “I had no dependents and what’s the point in killing yourself?” she remarks. A lot of new people in the village who have cars are inclined to travel outwards to do their shopping, Patricia claims, and she feels that the credit system which was largely used years ago will never be reverted to. Profit margins, she says, have halved of late, with high expenses eating into profits. But even if profits have diminished in recent years, some changes are certainly welcome. One which Patricia was only too delighted to see taking place was from the rations system at the end of the war years to ordinary business.” The rations system was just murderous” she says, and she recalls that Danish butter, which was the only butter available in any quantities, used to come in half barrels while jam used to come in 7 pound pots, and would then have to be distributed. Cigarettes, which were delivered in long boxes of 500, were generally sold in 5’s and “there used to be queues looking for them”.Torley’s, it seems, did a marvellous passing trade at one time, but congestion in the Main St. and parking problems did away with that.
Patricia says that it was a hard decision to make to give up the shop, and one which she had been thinking about for 3 years. Ultimately, it was one of her nieces who persuaded her to give it up, and give herself a break.She admits that she is bound to miss the shop, as it has been her life for so many years, but when she considers that it was a 7 day a week job, with only a half day on Wednesdays and Sundays, she feels that the closure will allow her time to do the things she has always wanted to do, but for which she never had the time.
Torley’s, which has not been modernised or altered in recent years has a lovely old fashioned façade. The sculpted name of TORLEY stands out in high relief on a green painted wooden board above the door, while the large shop window displays a colourful array of cigarette advertisements and other advertising pull-outs. “John Player – kingsize” and "Will’s Capstan” adverts form a harmonious colour combination with the shop itself, which, these days, is overhung by a “Coonan’s auctioneers” sign.
The adjudicators of the Tidy Towns competition once recommended that Torley’s should not do anything with their shopfront, says Patricia, so mindful of that, and aware that there was no point in doing anything with the shop in the event of possibly selling it, she left it as it was originally.
The autumnal demise of Torley’s will be a demise of the old style grocer and trader in Leixlip’s Main St. Already, the old forge which used to be beside the Post Office (formerly a grocery and petrol filling station) has been demolished, while all of the old groceries have closed, or have been converted for other commercial purposes. The town’s new furniture store, the greengrocers, the fish ‘n chipper, the jewellers and the travel agency are all businesses which have sprung up in Main St. in recent years. They are all reflective of growth in the area and of changing business patterns. Just as Torley’s future demise is reflective of a trade that is past…. or almost past.
 

Maria Marron's article in the Leader of 1983 marks the closure of Torley's shop on Leixlip's Main Street. Torley's was the last of the small grocery stores in the town centre. 


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