We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the coming weeks we will interview some of these businesses and share some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Carmel Crawford - Serial entrepreneur and owner of Chic Marilyn and most recent venture - Epik.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
CC: I opened my antique and jewellery shop, Chic Marilyn, on West St. Drogheda in 2017. and steadily built up a range of quality pieces of antique paintings, jewellery and objet d’art. Website www.chicmarilyn.com In late 2019, the shop next to me became available and I took the opportunity to turn my lifelong interest in vintage clothing into a new business. I focused on purchasing quality vintage pieces from the 1960s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s along with some select older pieces some from the Victorian era and the 1940’s and built a website www.soeurdemarilyn.com I fitted-out the new shop to complement the beautiful vintage clothing which I had sourced and the plan was to open in March 2020.
But now and again in life, things happen which are not part of the plan. Out of the blue came Covid 19 and within a very short time it became apparent that it was going to change life completely and dramatically for everyone. For me, my vintage clothing shop launch didn’t happen.
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
CC: As above - my vintage clothing shop was unable to launch properly. I realised that this wasn’t a business that would work in 2020, but that high-end vintage fashion was coming on trend, so I have used this time to develop the business.
It’s been a funny old year. I also own a premises on North Quay - A beautiful building from the 1880s which was recently fully restored to its former glory. Pre pandemic, it was operating as a busy, bustling Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, the lockdown hit the restaurant particularly hard as the owners were based in Italy. It was not possible for them to reopen with any degree of certainty and no one would have thought a year on that there would still be major travel restrictions.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
CC: .For the Clothing and Antiques businesses - During lockdown, I took the opportunity to substantially increase my stock of quality pieces and I now have a range that includes Prada, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Jean Muir, Norman Hartnell and Karl Lagerfield amongst other top names. I also bought a collection of clothing once owned by the renowned American opera singer Jessie Norman (she sang for Presidents Regan and Clinton as well as Queen Elizbeth). The beautiful pieces which I now have in stock are investment pieces which are becoming more and more difficult to acquire. I now focus on my online presence as it is important that these exclusive one-off pieces have access to an international market. But I am also very much looking forward to launching my physical shops, Soeur de Marilyn and Chic Marilyn in West St later this year.
In addition to all of this - I was faced with the decision to try and re-let the premises at North Quay or to take action ourselves. We took the decision to totally revamp the interior and reinvent the building as a coffee shop. The new coffee shop is called Epik. We had the help of a super interior designer, Victoria McGahon from SixtyOne Design in Drogheda as well as Downey Furniture, who did a great fit out. We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome – a minimal bright abstract feel with limited seating to encourage a grab and go vibe.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
CC: Louth County Council have been extremely supportive and we really appreciate their financial and other support over this very difficult time.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
CC: We are hugely optimistic. We are currently hiring for Epik coffee. The future is extremely exciting for us and all of our team.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
CC: The lockdown gave us the impetus to step outside our comfort zone and do something that we would never have done under normal circumstances. The outcome has been so much better than we could ever have imagined. We are creating local employment, using local suppliers and ultimately building a business that we are proud of. So our advice to others is to play the hand you are dealt with.. who knows, it could be the best decision of your life.
Looking forward we see the future as being EPIK!
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you @Drogheda & District Chamber.