Mark Sheehan and David Irwin, owners of Lucky Lane, pictured in the rather unique outlet in an alcove Picture: Adrian Butler
Mark Sheehan went back to college and plucked up the courage to open Lucky Lane in the height of the recession. He hasn’t looked back:
Tell us a little about Lucky Lane:
It certainly is a unique outlet in Limerick. It’s a variety shop, it’s a shop full of local arts and crafts, and artists who are craftspeople. There is a real eclectic mix of old and new, things which we have built up over the years. Lucky Lane started life as a thrift shop in 2013, a mini-market idea. Different individuals had different spots. That evolved towards myself and Dave running the shop. We wanted to up the game, develop our product line. As much as it’s a creative space, and artisan, it needs to be viable: does it pay the rent, does it pay a wage? So it wasn’t entirely viable, especially with business in the week.
How did you tackle this?
We had to develop further lines of products for ourselves. With that, we started stocking collectibles and variety, a gift shop of sorts. A good comic collection or some nice art.
Where are you located?
We are located in the heart of Catherine Street’s fashion quarter. I call it at the right end of Catherine Street going towards Thomas Street! It is an alcove. We are located beside an old town house, which is now Be Fabulous. This was a townhouse belonging to the Fitzgibbon family going back to the 1930s. They used to sell egg, poultry and produce from their farm. Lucky Lane was effectively their backyard. The owner, Mr Fitzgibbon at some point put a roof over it, which is why we have kept it to this day.
When did you open?
I remember we signed the lease in 2013. We decided by book or by crook, we’d be open before Christmas – and we opened on December 13! Now, we are in our fifth year. We did not imagine making five years, we imagined it as a six month pop up!
Where were you born and raised?
I was actually born in South Carolina, USA. My parents were working there. When I was aged four though, my father took a job back here in Limerick, at the Burlington factory at Gillogue, near the University of Limerick. He was a textile engineer. We lived in Limerick, Tralee, then Longford, and finally back to Limerick. I grew up in Shannon Banks. At the moment, I’m living in St Gerard Street near O’Connell Avenue in the city centre.
What is your educational background?
Most of my schooling happened here, in the Crescent College Comprehensive. After that, I went out to what at the time was the Moylish Regional Technical College, now the Limerick Institute of Technology, doing electronic engineering which I was a disaster at! I was already drawn towards music and creativity.
How did you get to where you are today?
After this, I went travelling to Europe, to Germany, working in Irish bars. I was beginning to play a lot more music. It was a passion I had. It made me happy. In one respects, my time has flown by since then. I pursued music with a passion, going further to study it. I set up an independent company to promote my band, and did a business expansion scheme in 2000 with my sister. It brought me into the business environment and gave me an appreciation for it. All that time, I was working in either bars or restaurants and retail outlets. I’ve managed a few places.
What happened then?
This brought me to Cork. My son was born there in 2002. As a result, music took a back seat. I managed a bar and restaurant there which brought me up to another level in terms of experience. Then, in 2008, the recession kicked in. I took redundancy in 2011: I was ready to change, having studied music by night in University College Cork. This allowed me to fulfil more of a personal ambition. I came back to Limerick after that, finishing my dissertation in July 2013, before signing a lease for Lucky Lane with Dave the following month!
Why did you go into business alone?
Independence would be the biggest thing. It is of course daunting. But the thing I am fortunate with is myself and my business partner David Irwin have a strong partnership, a strong trust in one another.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
We are planning our fifth year celebrations for the year, waking up out of winter. Our plans are to give Lucky Lane more awareness to the city. We are coming from a cultural, musical and creative background. We’ve put on stageshows, theatrics, poetry and gigs. We’re going to condense that into a fortnightly or even weekly showcase to bring awareness to our brand.
In business and life, who do you admire?
The last five years has been a learning curve for me. Business can be quite heartless. Sometimes I feel I have been a little too soft. But at the same time, I don’t want to become too cold. I kind of like Elon Musk’s approach. I like his ethos.
Are you guided by any particular motto?
It’s important to wear your honesty with pride.
Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?
I’m lucky in that I have a great son. He helps me unwind. We have a couple of great hobbies. I have music in my life, I play several instruments.