One of Dublin’s landmark family businesses shut its doors for the final time on Friday as The Pen Corner on College Green closed down after 95 years.

he Pen Corner’s distinctive shopfront on the corner of College Green and Trinity Street has stood proudly since its opening in 1927 and current owner John Fitzgerald admitted the decision to close was made with a heavy heart.

John has run the iconic Dublin shop since 1988 when his father passed away and said he has seven decades of memories and stories to cherish from the family business.

“I remember I was six of seven years of age and my brother locked me in the storage room downstairs and I couldn’t get out, it still haunts me,” John laughed during the last few hours of business on Friday afternoon.

“I remember we were warned as children that when adults entered the shop that children were to be seen and not heard. You couldn’t have that nowadays.

“What I’ll miss most is just the genuine warmth of human kindness. The people you meet and the stories that come from that. The characters and the interactions you have with them. You don’t know them but you share a moment and then with some you do get to know them well and they become regular customers. That’s what I’ll miss most,” John told The Irish Independent.

It’s becoming harder and harder for small businesses to survive in the current climate, John says, given technology and the ever-growing influence of large corporations. Eventually, he reached a “tipping point” where it no longer made financial sense to keep the doors open, despite his urge to maintain the family tradition at 12 College Green.

“People often think of businesses as vehicles to make money, but with small family businesses like ours, it was always just about a family surviving and providing employment, where possible.

“It’s just too hard to compete with the corporations and everything else these days, it’s the way it’s gone, unfortunately,” John said.

The business has had some famous customers down through the years, from Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain to Matrix co-creator Lana Wachowski but John will most fondly remember the regular customers who have been darkening his recognisable shopfront for years.

“A lot of my regular customers would have been coming here for 30, even up to 50 years or more, and would remember the place from when my father had it or even further back.

“It’s the chats and camaraderie with those loyal supporters that will be most missed but also providing a personal service to customers. I don’t think today’s generation are very good at being served,” John said.

The loyalty John spoke about was evident as friends and customers poured in with flowers, gifts and well wishes to mark a bittersweet occasion that is the final day of trade for a family business.

He said the last few weeks have seen a bounce in business thanks to the goodwill of customers who had heard of The Pen Corner’s impending closure.

John is proud that his family will be forever tied to the iconic Dublin street and proud of the tradition that was carried through generations from great aunt Florence O’Brien in 1927 down as far as him in the present day.

The shopfront that is familiar to most Dubliners has been there since the 1960s but may not be there much longer as John admits there’s not much left to do but “hand back the keys to the landlord”.

He admits that when he took over the business in 1988 he wondered: “Am I fool to do this?” but given the relationships fostered over the years, it was a decision he is glad he made.

“Some of the customers that have returned post-Covid pre-exist me being here. Their memory of the shop is of my great aunt’s time and that really is lovely.

“There’s a familiarity and a friendliness there. I think we’ve done a good job,” John said.

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