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Business the essence of good health in tough times



Date Published: 27-Sep-2012

Running a business is never an easy task and it’s even tougher these days when most people are watching every cent they spend. But Evergreen Health Foods, which celebrate 20 years in business this year, are weathering the storm pretty well.

“A lot of people have gone back to baking and cooking and having friends over for a meal and they are looking for different kinds of ingredients,” says Aideen Hurley, who opened her first Evergreen shop on the city’s Mainguard Street 20 years ago.

The Mainguard Street shop and the four other Evergreen outlets – in Barna, Moycullen, the Westside Shopping Centre and Galway Shopping Centre – stock a huge range of health foods, supplements and beauty products, attracting customers of all ages and from all backgrounds.

Aideen, a calm and practical woman, says it was never her driving ambition to have five shops – credit for that goes to her husband Kieran.

“Without Kieran I wouldn’t have done it. He sees the possible and is one for expansion. He is very farseeing and willing to take chances whereas I’d be more cautious.”

That’s one reason why they are a good combination when it comes to business.

“We both look after different areas and we try not to be in the same shop at the same,” she says with a laugh.

Aideen began working in retail when she was 14 and was a department head in Moons (now Brown Thomas) in the Waterford Glass section before having three sons in quick succession.

From Renmore, she was one of a family of eight and there was a solid work ethic; her father was a commercial traveller and her mother ran a bed and breakfast. But Aideen had been out of retailing for over a decade when she decided to open Evergreen.

“I was at home for 15 years rearing my family and I wanted to go back to work. I heard that a premises was available and a friend suggested a deli. I set it up as that, but then the health aspect took over.”

From the beginning Evergreen attracted both local people and Europeans who were living locally.

“Germans and French people would come in and I’d ask them what they used different products for and what they’d like to see the shop to stock,” she says. “I was learning as I went along.

Straight away she did a diploma in health-food retailing to learn the ins and outs of the business.

The course, which is run by the Irish Association of Health Stores, offers a cert followed by a two-year diploma. There are exams, which are marked in England, where the diplomas are issued.

Aideen says she and Kieran have since sent all their staff on that diploma course. In fact, Evergreen has put more staff through it than any other health shop in Ireland or England.

“The training is vital, because the staff are more health counsellors than shop assistants. We have wonderful knowledgeable staff.”

When it comes to advising customers on vitamins and supplements, there are guidelines, she adds.

“We can explain the products we sell but cannot diagnose. If people come in who are on medication, we tell them to go back to their doctor and check.”

Evergreen shops regularly host talks and demonstrations on aspects of nutrition and healthcare and Aideen sees that as part of their brief. “It’s about creating awareness. The principal issue is trying to get people to take responsibility for their own health.”

She also talks to ICA groups and other women’s associations on these issues. That might involve demonstrating what constitutes a healthy breakfast or lunch.

“I’d bring in products and show people what they would use them for and then we’d have a conversation about them. There is always one or two people who are very well up.”

In addition, some of the factories around town hold Healthy Eating weeks and she’s invited to take part and have a demonstration area.

“Young people used to scuttle past you before, but in the past few years all age groups are stopping,” she says, happy that people are more conscious of health issues.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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