Nestled in the rugged surroundings of rural east Cork, overlooking Ballycotton Bay, is one of Ireland’s hidden treasures.
The Shanagarry Design Centre is a quirky shopping experience that promotes the work of local artists and craftsmen.
It is actually a collection of several shops, but without dividing walls. You can find pottery, paintings, jewellery, and books. In the middle is a café where shoppers sit to enjoy locally-sourced food while soaking up the culture.
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Its success lies in its ability to attract visitors from long distances who travel to enjoy the experience.
The loss of Nasons is a blow to Canterbury, but in its demise lies an opportunity.
The layout of the building suits the quirkiness of the Shanagarry Design Centre. Lots of little rooms could serve as semi-permanent stalls for emerging artists, designers, potters, and jewellery-makers.
The popularity of pop-up craft fairs in the Westgate Hall show there is both the market and the talent for a concept like this. In a time of waning fortunes on the high street, the city centre’s survival depends on its ability to reinvent itself and provide an alternative to Amazon and online shopping.
Critics may argue that a venture such as this one is unlikely to be hugely profitable and market forces will dictate what happens when Nasons closes its doors.
But maybe this is an opportunity for local businesses, perhaps even the BID, to work collectively to support something unique. Every extra visitor to Canterbury is another potential customer, and if the former Nasons building could mimic the success of the Shanagarry Design Centre, it could be a real winner all city centre traders.
Canterbury needs another big chain store like a hole in the head. We can’t be a clone of every market town in England if we want to increase the appeal of our beautiful city.
Let’s watch this space.