Page 19 - The Kerry News 2019
P. 19

            SNEEM SHOP ON THE RING
OF KERRY SERVING LOCALS &
packed in plastic and in packets. Everything is disposable. There were no bottles of water or toilet tissue at that time. We have moved so fast in a short period of time.” Hilary is a man of high ethical standards and respect when it came to other shops in Sneem. “I never stepped on the toes of other business people. A case in point was when I was offered the chance to stock confectionary. I declined the offer as other shops and cafes had these items and I did not want to impinge on their living. In business my aim has always been to keep my prices right and this has been the mainstay of O’Sullivans for decades. For me it’s a labour of love.”
Is there such a thing as an honest criminal?. Hilary thinks there is.
Some years ago thieves broke into his shop, the only time it has been targeted.
“I had some loose change in the cash register and a large amount of cheques. Instead of tossing the cheques away as they left the premises, the thieves placed them in a small box on the window ledge. They placed a stone on top of them to ensure they did not blow away. I was surprised at this honest action. The thieves were later caught in Cork.”
TOURISTS FOR 200 YEARS
“The secret to a successful business is simple. Treat all your customers as a personal and dear friend. Ensure they get the best value for their hard earned money and always take their advice and needs on board as you strive to make your business better
 This simple and very effective business philosophy has been the successful model for a Sneem shop that has served the region for more than 200 years. J. D. O’Sullivan’s, in the picturesque North Square, has been an integral part of community life in the South Kerry village since it first opened its doors as a Shoemakers Shop in the 1800’s.
early years with 30 shops in the region, Tahilla alone had 14 shops. Today all we have in Sneem is three shops.” Hilary has the unique distinction of being the oldest living person in Ireland with haemophilia, a condition he has since birth. Hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. This can lead to spontaneous bleedingaswellasbleeding following injuries or surgery. Blood contains many proteins called clotting factors that can help to stop bleeding. The severity of hemophilia that a person has is determined by the amount of factor in the blood. “Due to haemophilia I never took part in sport and other physical activities. When I finished Primary School at 12 years of age, I decided to work in the shop full time which was something I never regretted. I took it over 18 years later and despite the long hours in the business I enjoy every minute of every day.”
KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2019 19
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THE TAN YARD, KENMARE PLACE, TOWN CENTRE, KILLARNEY
    The current owner, Hilary O’Sullivan is a sprightly bachelor in his 80’s, the fourth generation of O’Sullivan’s to run the business. He has been serving his customers with panache and a warm smile for the past 70 years.
“I first went behind the counter when I just 10 years of age and immediately felt a very special bond with the local community. I could hardly wait to finish class at Sneem National School to rush home and be part of this magical experience where I became part of the living and fast paced history of Sneem. I felt so privileged to be part of something very special,” Hilary, now 82, said.
Today the shop is still a thriving business with the name D. J. O’Sullivan proudly displayed over the entrance. Apart from groceries it boasts a wide range of items including electrical goods, hardware, animal feeds, coal, paint, delph, boots and wellingtons. Checking his list
   The original shop was purchased by his great grandfather Denis O’Sullivan from Castlecove more than two centuries ago. He opened a very successful Shoemakers Shop which was later taken over by his son Johnny Denis O’Sullivan.“Johnny Denis changed the use of the premises to a shop which was the start of the O’Sullivan retail business. He married Mary Ann Fitzgerald, an American native, and together they expanded the business which in time was a great success. Mary Ann was an astute business woman but sadly passed away at a young age. Her son, D.J., my father, then took over the business and ran it successfully until he died in 1965. He had a family of four boys and one girl. Sadly I am the only sibling still alive. Sneem was thriving in those
Santa is not the only one making a list and checking it twice at this time of the year. Hilary is continuing a long family tradition where each customer is gifted a Christmas gift each year.
D.J. O’Sullivans is open seven days a week from 9am to 10pm from Monday to Saturday and from 11am to 3pm on Sundays. While D. J. O’Sullivan delivered his goods to farmers and the wider community in Sneem, Castlecove, Derrynane and other areas on the Ring of Kerry using a horse and cart, Hilary has the luxury of a lorry to deliver his goods.
“The tradition goes back to my father’s time when customers were given tins of sweets and biscuits, Christmas bracks and other delights to thank them for their invaluable custom during the year. I am delighted, and honoured, to continue this personal and unique custom that is a very special and important aspect of my business. Its personal and something that you would not find in the multi national shops.”
Times have changed in Sneem. New cafes and bars have opened, a hotel offers tourists luxury and pampering and new familieshavemadethisidyllic village their home. However one thing that has remained unchanged, the D. J. O’Sullivan warm welcome, attention to customers needs and a genuine value for money as you step inside this Aladdin’s Cave of wonder.
 Tradition is important to Hilary who still operates the ‘goods on tick’ system with payment usually at the end of the year or when animals have been sold in the Mart.
O’Sullivan’s has survived the Great Famine, the Easter Rising, Civil War, the War of Independence, two World Wars and numerous Recessions.... here’s hoping for another century of business in Sneem, a gem in the crown of Kerry tourism and natural beauty.
in conversation with Con Dennehy
Times have changed dramatically in the O’Sullivan Shop according to Hilary.
“As a 10 year old the Musgraves lorry arrived once every few weeks with just one large box of goods. Tea, sweets, flour and biscuits came in smaller boxes and were weighed to the customer’s specifications. Today a large lorry arrives with all the good
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