Open all hours in Ardglass

Open all hours in Ardglass

14 December 2011 - by DAVID TELFORD

ARDGLASS businessman Willie Mulhall is somewhat unique in the world of retailing.

On Christmas Day, he will probably be the only shop owner in Ireland open for business. But that won’t come as a surprise to his customers because Mulhall’s shop also holds the distinction of being open all hours.

The quaint shop in Quay Street — which sells just about everything — is open 24 hours a day for 365 days a year and Christmas Day will just be like any other as far as Willie is concerned.

He is fond of his turkey and trimmings though and has revealed the shop will be closed on December 25 for an hour to allow him to enjoy his dinner. But once dinner is over the shop will reopen.

“I have reluctantly decided to close for an hour on Christmas Day,” said Willie, with his trademark grey locks and flowing beard casting a sharp contrast against his black tee-shirt. “I have to open, it’s one of our busiest days of the year.

“Everywhere else will be closed but it will be business as usual for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way. People know if they need something that we are open and that just doesn’t apply to Christmas Day, but every other day and night of the year.”

Willie, who is a highly acclaimed artist and recently turned his hand to acting in the highly acclaimed HBO production of Game of Thrones, explained it is his love of art that led to his shop staying open all hours.

So how did he come to stay open around the clock?

Art is in his blood and with his painting masterpieces crafted at night and into the early hours, the lights in his shop were always on. Fishermen on their way to sea began to stop for cigarettes and sweets at all hours before boarding their trawlers.

“I can remember as a young boy in the shop which was formerly run by my parents Charles and Rose peering over the counter to look at the fishermen coming into the shop,” he recalled.

“They had terrific weather-beaten faces just crying out to be captured on canvas and I supposed this triggered my love for art at a very early age.”

Willie’s mother also painted and when he took over the shop he would settle himself on a chair close to the ice-cream making machine and start work on his creations.

“They say artists get inspired at night and it was no different for me. I would paint way into the early hours of the morning in the shop and with the lights on people would come to the door.

“Gradually I started leaving the door open and the fishermen caught on and now know that as they head off to work during hours when most people are tucked up in bed that we are open.

“But it’s not just fishermen who come in at ungodly hours. A few distressed and broken-hearted ladies have been known to call in with me on their way home after falling out with their loved ones. I suppose they just want a listening ear,” Willie continued.

The businessman described the shop as the “hub” and said many country people are regular customers and feel relaxed about going in wearing their working clothes.

“You don’t have to dress up to shop in Mulhall’s,” said Willie. “There are those who wouldn’t go into some stores unless they are dressed. You don’t get that in here.”

Describing Ardglass as “cosmopolitan,” Willie said he hangs his paintings on the wall in Quay Street and said people are more than a little surprised when they call in and ask him where his studio is and he points to his chair in the corner.

The local artist has painted portraits of the great and the good, both from pictures and in real life, one of which was Bruce Springsteen whom he spent six hours with.

Ten of his paintings are hanging at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Monaghan, while another 17 hang on the walls of Jury’s Hotel in Boston.

“My paintings are all over the world. I love painting and do all of my work sitting in the corner of the shop. I do have to get up now and then to serve customers, even during the middle of the night when most people are asleep,” said Willie.

The Ardglass man has painted posters for Led Zeppelin and Rory Gallagher, staged an exhibition of Phil Lynott paintings in Dublin and painted a portrait of Daniel O’Donnell which was subsequently purchased by his manager who had spotted it on display in Dublin.

Willie is currently putting the finishing touches to his latest creation and aims to have it finished in time for Christmas as it’s a present for someone.

That can only mean that the midnight oil will continue to burn in Quay Street and with so many people involved in the manic dash in the run-up to Christmas, Mulhall’s will be an oasis of calm, just as it’s always been.

And for those who do run out of something on Christmas Day and need access to a shop quickly, pop round to Mulhall’s. And if your visit does just happen to coincide with Willie’s dinner, he’ll be more than happy to open the door for you.