The business owners in George’s Street Arcade are a diverse bunch, coming from the likes of Nepal, Poland, France and Venezuela. We meet some of them to learn about what brought them to one of Dublin’s best markets.
How business is done at George’s Street Arcade
The much-loved George’s Street Arcade is more than just a quick way to get to Drury Street. It is a living breathing illustration of integration from all over the world, under one uniquely Dublin roof.
As Dublin.ie approached the green gates, it noticed an impeccably dressed lady with a blossom in her hair. Floating gracefully from stall to stall, greeting its inhabitants, straightening signage and cooing encouragement.
This is Gwen Layden of the Layden Group – the second-generation owner of the Arcade building – and without a doubt, a leader of her community.
So why is this George’s Street Arcade so unique? “The mix of people is what I love most,” she says. “Business is about people. The eclectic mix of products and people is second to none, I suspect, and it is truly a community.”
It is to her credit that this arcade is a crucible of creativity, colour and can-do attitude – all bubbling up from an eclectic melting pot of multiple small independent businesses.
Gwen spells out her inclusive, ethical and custodial approach: “The owner runs each shop or stall, there is a complementary mix and no direct competition. It means that everyone can rest easy knowing their business will have this space to grow uniquely and without being undercut or copied”.
A helping hand hand during a crisis
The business owners show fierce loyalty to the strong community here, citing the typically excellent footfall, camaraderie and – most of all – management.
They refer to the decision by the Layden Group to pause rents during the Covid-19 lockdowns that shut down stores throughout the city. Subsequently, as the city began to re-open, the rent initially returned at a reduced rate. Their bond with Gwen is palpable.
Amit Bajrachrya, originally from Nepal, came here with an MBA, by way of Liverpool, eight years ago to set up his shop: Irish Gifts 4 You.
“I always wanted to work for myself,” he says.
“When I came for a visit to Dublin, it felt like a lively city with lots of engaging people. This arcade had great stalls and plenty of footfall. During the challenging times, people have made a point of supporting our businesses, shopping locally and even refusing a discount.”
The Irish contributors
Businesses run by Irish owners also contribute to the eclectic feel of George’s Street Arcade. Some are institutions in their own right, like Simon’s Place, which is celebrating 25 years.
Three generations have run Body.1973 – the piercing and silver jewellery establishment that has called the George’s Street Arcade for 40 years. Donal, who runs Siam Su, has been selling from his stall for 28 years and started off specialising in merchandise from Thailand. He’s now selling t-shirts.
Then there’s Tomás Póil’s Man of Aran Fudge stall, which sells 24 different flavours of fudge – all based on his grandmother’s original mixture. You can read more about their stories in our other article on the stallholders of George’s Street Arcade.
From K-pop accessories to unique crafts
We stopped into clothing stall Rare, which sells a selection of clothes inspired by Asian comicbooks and K-pop. It is run by Chinese owners who came to Dublin a decade ago to find more opportunities.
They also sell contemporary gifts and anime merchandise from Asia. They spoke highly of the support from building owners too: “They’re good people. It wasn’t easy for them to discount the rent, but they are very much appreciated.”
Magda Niechwiej, owner of Unique Crafts and Design, originally from Poland, has been here since 2006.
“The people in Dublin made me want to stay,” she says. “The atmosphere and vibe in the city are really special. The atmosphere at every level – support from my neighbours, customers and even the arcade owners.”
What’s her advice for others who want to set up their own business? “A good location in the city matters. Don’t be afraid to pay extra for the footfall,” she says. “I would also go to the Local Enterprise Office for business advice.”
Dublin is a richer place, in more ways than one, thanks to the contributions, hard work, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of our diverse community. It wouldn’t be possible without the warmth of the local communities that receive them, though. That’s our Dublin, let’s keep it colourful and alive.
What the Local Enterprise Office says
“I would encourage anyone thinking of setting up a business to attend one of our Free Weekly Business Advice Clinics,” says Dave Connolly, Business Advisor at Dublin City LEO. “You’ll gain an understanding of everything, from how to register a company in Ireland to the offerings available from the various enterprise support agencies.”
Dave points out the growing richness and variety in Dublin’s food sector – a visible result of our multicultural business scene.
Some of LEO’s recent success stories include Gunmoo Kim of Jaru, a contemporary Korean Food business set up by a student. Another great success is Oliver Wei of Asian Artisan Food, a new Chinese dumpling manufacturing enterprise.
To find out more about George’s Street Arcade, visit its website.