November 1940, a crowd of Dublin Christmas shoppers gazed up at these
signs, hung on the plate glass windows of Clery's, announcing the Store's
opening sale under the new management of Denis Guiney. This marked a turn
in the fortunes of one of Dublin's most famous department stores.
The history of Clerys began one hundred and forty years ago, in May 1853
when Mc Swiney, Delany and Co. opened ‘The New or Palatial Mart.”
Housed in a purpose-built premises, this five storey department store
was designed to eclipse all European outlets. Shoulders above the other
buildings, on what was then called Lower Sackville Street, its Victorian
finesse set it apart from its plain Georgian neighbours. Thirty years
later the Store entered a new era when it was taken over by M. J. Clery
of Limerick. From 1883 to the present day, Clery and Co. has hung over
the doors of this renowned establishment. Holding a prime position on
O'Connell Street, Clery's has witnessed Dublin's social, political and
Legend has it that Denis Guiney bought Clery's Store for £20,000.
However, this was a partial payment. The true figure was a quarter of
million pounds. On the wall of Clery's Board Room hangs a cancelled cheque
for the amount of £230,000, dated in 1941 which completed the purchase
of the store. Denis Guiney came ftom Killorglin, Kerry where his father
had a small but economic farm. The eldest son of seven children, Denis
was always noted for his ability and ambition. Leaving school at 14, he
served his apprenticeship in the drapery shop of William Crowley near
Killorglin (1908). In 1911, three years into his apprenticeship, Denis
grew restless and moved to Messrs O'Connor and Co. in Kilrush and from
there to O'Leary’s in Killarney. In 1917, Denis took the plunge
and moved up to Dublin where he worked for Roberts and Co.
During the War of Independence, Denis, or "Dinny,” is among
the many credited with acting as a courier and intelligence gatherer for
Michael Collins. The year 1921 was an important year for the Guiney's.
Denis married Nora Gilmore and opened his first shop at 70 Talbot Street.
The shop began at a dangerous time in Dublin. The Civil War raged around
the country. Violence surged on the Dublin streets. In 1922 the shop on
Talbot Street came under fire and was destroyed. Re-opening in 1923, the
Guiney fortune went from strength to strength. By 1940, the turnover in
Guiney's was greater than Clery's at that time. A year later the turnover
reached £1 million.
Guiney's store’s popularity stemmed from the assurance of good value,
durable quality and stylish but affordable fashions. This was the reputation
Denis brought with him when he took over Clery's Store. Monster Sales,
Drapery, Furnishing and Clocks, Clery's Ballroom and the Beehive Bar and
Clery's Restaurant, were among the many features that ensured Clery's
succeeded under the wing of Denis Guiney's management. Clery's became
a special resort for country people who came in droves at Christmas and
on holidays to avail of the guaranteed bargains. Through the forties and
fifties, Clery's developed in the shadow of rationing and the country's
Withstanding the transformation of the sixties, Clery's remained a focal
point of the city-shoppers by adapting to the population’s changing
demands. In 1967, Denis Guiney passed away but his business ethos was
carried on by his second wife, Mary, who preserved her husband's family
tradition. During his forty-six years as an employer, he had provided
employment for over 6,000 people and had established Clery's as a leading
department store in Dublin.
In 1990 Clery's unveiled their new clock, marking the firm’s 50th
anniversary of Denis Guiney's take over of Clery's. Clery's Clock has
been a meeting point for generations of Dubliners and country visitors.
It has kept time over the changing environment of Dublin City. Below it,
the windows of Clerys have reflected the conversions within the shop.
Denis Guiney intended to fill his windows with the largest range of goods
possible in an attractive and appealing style carefully priced to capture
the attention of the passer-by. Photographs and outlines of the various
displays over the last fifty years provide a marvellous study of the changing
fashions and consumer goods available throughout Ireland and Europe. Two
years ago, Mary Guiney, then 93 years of age, received the Junior Chamber
Dublin Business Heritage Award for 1995. This award recognises long established
enterprises for their contribution to the commercial and cultural fabric
Drawing into the new millennium, Clery's has kept up with the demands
of the sophisticated shopper. No longer considered "our country-cousins"
domain, it boasts of over 70 different units from the fashionable clothing
outlets of Miss Selfridge and Wallis to the only Ladybird Store in Dublin
which stocks a terrific and affordable range for children. Under the great
span of Clery's roof, the Christmas shopper can find something for everyone
including China, household goods, clothing, cosmetics, soft furnishings,
mobile phones and the largest selection of beds in Dublin. With four separate
coffee shops cum restaurants, you will not have to go far to rest your
feet during a battle to complete your Christmas shopping. Of course no
Christmas is complete without Clery's Santa’s Grotto which has delighted
Dublin's children for generations.