Gort Chamber of Commerce is urging people in its hinterland to support local businesses after extensive flooding caused major disruption to its traditionally strong pre-Christmas trading.
According to the chamber, a number of businesses in the town were forced to close due to flooding on their premises, while others closed because of a lack of customers. There is concern, however, that some of these closures will be permanent if companies cannot recover from the loss of business caused by the closure of the N18 and a number of secondary routes into Gort.
“Businesses are very concerned because this should have been their busiest time of year but the floods seriously affected access to the town. Some people have closed their shops because they were so quiet. There was no traffic getting through. If all the access routes to the town don’t open soon and remain open, some people fear that they might have to stay closed because they haven’t made any money in the past week or so,” said Regina Monaghan, Gort Chamber of Commerce.
“Some businesses are flooded and some of them haven’t got insurance so how do they come back from this? It is very hard for them and many of them are employers,” she added.
The timing too is far from ideal for the Gort business community.
“We had promoted the town a good bit and we did up booklets and the companies had all advertised in that. These booklets had just been sent out when the flooding hit. Then for the past two weeks, no one has been able to get to us. It is very tough on people,” Regina said.
“It was hard to expect people to come from some of the outlying areas because they had to pass through other towns like Oranmore and Loughrea with the diversions. Why would they spend the extra time coming all the way to Gort when they are passing through other places that must have what they are looking for? People may have been making the effort to come to the town for appointments with doctors, or solicitors or whatever, but they have not been coming here to shop,” she claimed.
“In other years the last few weeks would have been busy but this year has been a totally different experience. A lot of businesses that have struggled through a tough year were relying on the pre-Christmas shopping to make up for it and then for this to happen? No one could have predicted this,” Regina said.
The Chamber is trying to get across the message that the town is open for business and is urging people to support Gort through a very difficult period.
“We are really asking anyone that can access Gort to come and shop in the town to save employment in the area. We want people to remember that their business is very important after all that has happened. For the town to survive we need people to come here and do their shopping. By buying locally, people will be keeping shops opened and helping to keep employment secure in your town,” she concluded.
The N18 north of Gort reopened earlier this week as did Crowe Street in the town. One business particularly badly affected by the flooding was Finn’s Furniture. Its owner now hopes to reopen the shop this week.
“I am opening on Thursday. I’m going to reopen with the furniture that I have saved. If flood victims need furniture, I’ll give it to them at a good price. I’ll look after them because I’m a flood victim myself,” Mike Finn said.
Mike is particularly critical of what he sees as a lack of support from the Government to business like his.
“I am opening the shop. I have no other choice. There is no one out there to help me. The Government isn’t going to help me. I have a wife and three sons aged 13, 10 and six and they are my priority. I am getting great support from the suppliers, the banks and everyone else. I am going to try to beat the Government on this one. They are not going to put me down,” he told The Clare Champion.
“It has been an emotion couple of weeks. The amount of support I got from people across Clare and South Galway is amazing. We got hundreds of calls encouraging us. I got phone calls, my wife got phone calls from people and it was amazing really to see that so many people care,” he continued.
Like the Chamber of Commerce, Mike wants people to help Gort and its business community get back on its feet.
“Gort is open for business. My shop is open for business. I’ll have to close off the part that was flooded for good for health and safety reasons but the rest of it will be open,” Mike confirmed, adding, “Santy will be coming to the Finn household, I can guarantee you that, despite what has happened to us over the past two weeks.”