Building works transforming St Vincent de Paul Cookstown into a sleek, open and modern store are well under way, and should be finished by Easter said President, Denis Loughry.
The work, planned to help the charity compete with the town’s ever-growing population of charity shops as well as professional retailers, was funded by St Vincent de Paul bosses and through a series of fund-raisers in recent years.
And the £220,000 upgrade, Mr Loughry said “is vitally important as the money generated by the shop is what allows us to go out into the community and give help, whether it be financial or material”.
“Without a successful retail outlet, we would be unable to do that work,” he told the Mail, “as that is where all of our funding is generated.
“They started the building works in June of this year,” Mr Loughry continued. “The furniture bit of it was going to be finished by the end of December, but it’s now going to be handed over to us by the first week in December.
“Then over the Christmas period we will move from the existing building to the new build and trade out of there until the renovation of the existing building is done. I would think that around Easter time we will have our grand opening of our new building.”
Unlike tales of delay, heard in relation to many developments, Mr Loughry said renovations have gone well and that “the builders are exemplary.
“They have done a really good job,” he said, “with very little inconvenience to anybody and that has been echoed by the principal of Holy Trinity, [and] the local priest has been very helpful too.”
The biggest change to the premises will be the addition of a furniture showroom at the back, while bigger windows will allow people to see inside to what’s on sale, Denis said.
In relation to how the improvements were funded, Mr Loughry added: “We would like the general public to know we are spending approximately £220,000 - all of which we managed to secure ourselves.
“We got £120,000 of grant funding from Dublin and Belfast [St Vincent’s] and we raised £100,000 ourselves, so we don’t have to ask the very generous parishioners or general public to donate anything towards it.
“Over a period of a few years we organised different fund-raising events, we had generous contributions from benefactors and we had a cooker push, organised by local businessman Des Keenan in July, and he presented us with a cheque for £17,000 - this has all gone into the building.”
When the work is finished. Mr Loughry said “the foodbank will be moving into the new building and the rest of the building will be used to exhibit furniture.
“Hopefully it will look more like a shopping experience than a house,” he added.
“That is because of the competition that we now face in Cookstown. There’s an increasing number - I believe it to be 16 - charity related shops in Cookstown, many of which are of high quality.
“We are also going to bring in an assistant manager with expertise in marketing and merchandising in order to make our shop more attractive to younger people.
“And we will need at least between 10-20 volunteers.”