Dublin retailer closes its doors after 150 years of trading

Today, the doors will close at Number 8 Arran Quay in Dublin for the final time, and a family business that has been trading since 1868 will cease. Our capital city will lose yet another independently-run shop, with all its associated social history.

The Heather family originally ran a general drapery on Arran Quay, but for more than half a century now, the business has concentrated on shoes. Since 1990, they have been selling outsized men’s shoes only, and their distinctive corner premises overlooking the Liffey will be familiar to anyone who travels the quays.

Earlier this week, I spent a morning with David and Denise Heather, as they counted down the last days of a business in which they have spent almost 50 years working. The couple first met when Denise had a summer job at 14 in the shop. They married in 1976, and have worked alongside each other at Arran Quay ever since. As David says: “We’re retiring, but we’re not like other retired couples, because we’ve always been under each other’s feet.”

Feet is their trade, or rather, men’s extra large feet, which require the outsized sizes they specialise in. “You’d get a pain in your neck working here, looking up, because all the customers are so tall,” David jokes. The most common sizes they sell are 13, 14 and 15, but they stock all kinds of footwear up to an astonishing size 20. “We wouldn’t have lasted out the recessions without having a niche business,” he says.

Heathers sell slippers, wellies, work boots, runners, brogues, slip-ons, desert boots, dress shoes and fashion shoes. Surprisingly, a shoe in size 20 is the same price as one in a 7, even though the scale is so much greater.

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