A LONG serving Limerick retailer who will trade just yards from Starbucks, if it opens in the city, has said the coffee shop is a “must have”.
Catherine Street Menswear retailer Mike O’Connell was speaking after the Limerick Leader this week revealed that the coffee shop giant was on the verge of moving into the glass-fronted Thomas Street centre.
The news has drawn a huge reaction on the Limerick Leader’s website, plus our Facebook and Twitter pages, with the vast majority of comments in favour of the new store.
But there are fears that the city’s economy will not be able to cope with another coffee house, most notably from metropolitan district Mayor Michael Sheahan and the chairperson of the City Business Association Helen O’Donnell.
However, Mr O’Connell - who has traded in the area for almost 30 years - said these concerns are unfounded.
“There is room for everybody. I think (this development) is great for the city, and very important. I think Starbucks is a ‘must have’ for every city. I was in Belfast recently, and I went to a Starbucks there, and there was just a great buzz around the street,” he said.
Representatives of the chain - founded in Seattle back in 1971 - are set to confirm it will open its first Limerick outlet shortly.
“It’s almost there. It is just a case of i’s being dotted and t’s being crossed,” said a well-placed source.
Rumours have been rife on neighbouring streets for a number of weeks that the multi-national chain is on the brink of opening.
But Mayor Sheahan asked: “Are we not coffee shopped out at this stage?”
Starbucks was founded in 1971, and has over 20,000 stores globally. It is only in recent years it has started an aggressive expansion in Ireland, with Dublin and Cork being its particular focus.
Ms O’Donnell added: “We are delighted to welcome anyone who is setting up in our gorgeous city. But it is another coffee shop, another cafe. Every time one shop opens, it takes away another’s customers. More coffee shops have opened here in the last 10 months than any other business,” she said.
Mayor Sheahan also gave a cautious welcome.
“Any enterprise which brings footfall, and attracts young people into the city centre has to be welcomed,” he said.
“But we should be looking at a wider selection of enterprises in the centre. We are more than well served by coffee shops.”
The landmark building Starbucks is expected to move into sold last year for around €3m to a Cork-based private investor.
It was their intention to convert the building to three floors of retail space, and a further floor of office space.
The coffee chain would represent the first occupant of the centre.
Previously, a convenience store-type supermarket - widely rumoured to be Tesco Ireland - was eyeing up the site, a move which drew the opposition of several nearby traders.
Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment as the Limerick Leader went to press.