Popular Castlewellan businessman retires after 25 years

Popular Castlewellan businessman retires after 25 years

7 April 2021

AFTER nearly 25 years of running one of Castlewellan’s most popular shops, owner Joe Rogan has now retired as the helpful and ever friendly owner of JR’s store.

Founded with his wife Maria in 1996, Joe and his staff turned the shop at 71 Main Street into an integral part of life in the town.

Whether it was to post a card or parcel, as JR’s also incorporated the town’s post office, or to buy anything from a  bottle of milk to a three-piece suite or to take the children to the shop’s annual Santa Claus visit, popping into JR’s was a must.

The 62 year-old is delighted to have found an owner like local woman Lisa McKeown to take forward the now Today’s Local branded store into the future.

However, Joe and his family are proud that their business became part of Castlewellan’s living history.

“Because we were right in the centre of the town, we became a bit of a focal point and known for playing music out of the shop,” said Joe.

“It was always a good, friendly shop. That was the whole point of it. Everybody got spoken to, everybody was made to feel welcome, whether you bought anything or not. I’ve always said to the staff to make sure that they said hello to everybody who came over the door.

“The opportunity arose to sell the property and the business and it call came up at the right time. With everything that is going on at the minute, I just thought, ‘Life is too short’ and I want to enjoy what bit of life I have left when I can with my wife Maria.”

A consummate salesman, Joe said the early days were fun ones.

“When we first started out at 69 Main Street, it was a discount store, what we would have called a swag shop in the old days as we were selling things around a pound and were known as JR’s Discount Store,” he recalled.

“We opened up on December 3 in 1996, it was on a Tuesday and it snowed. I would go to the wholesalers on Tuesday and Thursday nights and on Sunday morning, get stock and put it on the shelf and sell it and do it all over again. It was great. The people of Castlewellan was so good that it was always a pleasure to go into work.

“Then In 1999, we moved into the big shop at 71 Main Street and started to 

do a bit of bedroom and living room furniture and garden furniture.

“We became known as JR’s of Castlewellan in 2010 and on February 5, 2016. we took over the main post office and it became part of JR’s. Last February, just before lockdown, we became part of the Today’s Local group so everything has worked out so well.

“I wish Lisa all the very best for the future and I’m delighted to say that all the staff are staying on. Lisa has great ideas and I know she will drive on the business and take it to the next level.”

It was Joe mainly working in the business at the start but he eventually employed nine staff with several of them working there nearly as long as he had.

He explained sales was always in his blood.

“I’ve been in sales for over 40 years. Even though I started off as a mechanic, my first real job was as a door to door salesman for a mail order business,” he said.

“I always wanted to be put on my own and have my own place.  My father was a shoe repairer and he had a wee business in Drumaness. I think I got the love of being my own boss from him.”

As Joe’s shop expanded, so did his family with children coming along,  Alanna, a 26 year-old physiotherapist, Ceara, a 23 year-old classroom assistant and 19 year-old Connor, who is a first year university student – all of whom helped out in the shop with Ceara still working at the weekends.

Connor and his father toasted the recent sale of the business on the day with a dram of Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey. Joe’s mother, Mrs Rosaleen Rogan – who will celebrate her 100th birthday on May 2 – has been a stalwart supporter of her son down the years and was there when Joe handed over the keys to the new owner.

Joe admitted he found that last year one of the toughest he had been through during the last quarter century.

“It was tough, the shop was opened throughout the pandemic and I continued to work between 60-80 hours each week,” he said.

“While we had other tough years, lockdown was definitely different. We had the extra stress of wondering whether we could catch the virus and bring it home. In the first lockdown, you were coming home and straight into the shower, washing your clothes every night and such.

“You always had that wee bit of fear at the back of your mind. The biggest thing for me was not being able to shake people’s hands anymore. I found that really hard. I normally would always be shaking hands, and even giving hugs, but that changed and everyone had to keep the two metres part.

“I found it all stressful but it also helped to pave in the road to retiring.”

Once international travel returns to normal, Joe and his wife hope to return to the Amalfi Coast off Italy and to visit family in Florida and he plans to work on his golf handicap.