The Tipperary town institution that is Kingstons Shoes, established in 1946, closed on Saturday as loyal customers bid farewell to Billy Kingston who had served the community with dedication for so long.
The Kingston family are synonymous with the business life of Tipperary town and in the last week of the life of the business the depth of respect and affection for Billy Kingston, his wife Margaret and the staff was obvious to all as people called in to shake hands and wish them all the best.
Billy was warmly embraced by families he had served for generations as they called to wish him a happy retirement. They enjoyed a cup of tea as people reminisced recalling with fondness their dealings with the Kingston family over the years.
Billy started working in the shop in 1958, in the family business set up by his parents Thomas and Susan in 1946.
Billy was overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of goodwill from the people of the town.
It was an occasion of sadness for Billy but it was also an occasion to look back with great pride on the longevity of the family business, its service to the community of West Tipperary and East Limerick, and its significant contribution to the economic life of the town for so many decades.
A personalised service, quality and high standards were the trademark characteristics of Kingstons Shoes in Main Street, Tipperary Town.
“The week leading up to the closure last Saturday was a very emotional one. Itwas a difficult week, many tears were shed. We would have served five generations of some of the families in the town” said Billy.
Billy said he enjoyed every moment of his sixty years in the business and would miss the daily life of the shop.
“I enjoyed serving people, I was very happy, I loved people and loved meeting them, that is one of the things I will miss greatly, that contact with people was very important to me, you got to know about what was going on in people's lives as that relationship developed over the years”
Billy said he was fortunate to have such supportive and loyal customers and he paid tribute to his staff. He took great personal satisfaction in the length of service members of the staff held.
“The staff were very much part of the family and played a very important role in building up that relationship we had with our customers over the years” said Billy.
Joining Billy in saying farewell to the customers were long serving staff members - manager Bernie who had thirty eight years service as has Maria in the office, while Kate had twenty years, Helen fifteen years and Frankie had ten years.
That personal touch , said Billy, was something that was now sadly missing from retail.
“You don’t get that personal touch with the click and go business that is there now and I think people will come to really miss that interaction in time to come” he said.
He said the retail business in the town had changed dramatically in recent years. The onset of out of town shopping centres free parking in those centres compared to the pay parking system in the town centre, and the failure to provide a by pass in the town all contributed to difficult trading conditions.
Retail has cer tainly come a long way since Billy used to walk around town delivering shoes on approbation to houses. The concept involved leaving three or four pairs of shoes into a house for people to try them on giving them days to make up their minds.
“It was how trust was built up with the customer and ourselves, it was a very personalised service, something I enjoyed providing regardless of all the changes over the years” said Billy.
He is looking forward to his retirement with Margaret, they have two sons Ken and David who is in Canada, with more time to enjoy the beauty surrounding their family home in scenic Aherlow. Billy hopes to enjoy his “supporting role” to his wife Margaret who is a very keen gardener.