On Dolphin’s Barn Street, opposite the main entrance to the Coombe Hospital, eight traditional shop fronts are decaying.
Flower Boutique is the only one that still has a legible sign.
A neighbour says it was once bustling with small businesses, but the road is now characterised by bricked-up and boarded-up windows. The shops are used for displaying posters.
Behind 44-50 Dolphin’s Barn Street is a factory that used to be Kavanagh’s Printers, according to neighbour Anthony Keville. (Officially, DC Kavanagh Ltd.)
The shops and the factory were rezoned together in 2011, indicating that a plan was in place for developing them, but no planning application was made at that time.
Anthony Keville, who lives a few doors down from the empty shops, says 49 Dolphin’s Barn Street used to be Ladola’s chipper. The owner made the first penny ice pop in Dublin, Keville says.
“If you tasted those ice pops the taste of it never leaves you, they were to die for,” he says, sitting in the living room of the house he shares with his mother, who also grew up on the street.
On Fridays after work there used to be a queue around the corner for Ladola’s, he says, with the workers from the Dub Tex factory down the road and from Kavanagh’s Printers. “The whole street was a hive of industry in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Keville.
Some of the other shops were a shoe maker, a florist and a baker, he recalls. However, Ladola’s was eventually shuttered, and, with the move towards supermarket shopping, many small shops and businesses closed down.
Keville says the shops were all bought up by Conor Kavanagh, of Kavanagh’s Printers, who also owned the printers behind it. Although we tried in several ways, we couldn’t find a way to get in touch with Conor Kavanagh.
Two businesses are still operating on the street: C&F Motor Factors at the city-centre side, and the Mad Barber’s at the other.
Colm Caffrey, one of the owners of C&F Motor Factors, says a “sold” sign went up back in June or July and came back down again within about two days.
The Kavanagh’s Printers Site
In 2005, the Kavanaghs sold their printing firm, but kept the factory premises at the back of Dolphin’s Barn Street.
DC Kavanagh Ltd was a large print and mailing company that went into receivership in 2012, RTÉ reported at that time.
The report said DC Kavanagh Ltd had been set up in 1977, and “is one of the country’s biggest print and mailing companies. It operates across several business areas, but mainly in the government, financial and charitable sectors.”
It also said the firm Smith & Williamson Freaney had been appointed as the receiver.
The business of DC Kavanagh Ltd was bought out in 2005 by a new company. But when the new company took over, it didn’t buy the factory buildings at Dolphin’s Barn. The new owners of the printing business rented the buildings for the first year, and then got their own premises.
The buildings at Dolphin’s Barn were transferred to a different company, DCK Properties Ltd. Eileen and Conor Kavanagh are listed as directors of DCK Properties, which is the last owner of the factory building that those with knowledge of the site history know about.
Anthony Weldon, who works for the liquidator Kieran Ryan & Co., said that DCK Properties Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in August of this year, and did not have any property assets at that time.
The zoning on the eight shops at 44–50 Dolphins Barn Street and the factory building behind it is mixed-use, so it could be used for businesses or for residential.
The properties became derelict one by one throughout the 1980s and 1990s, says Caffrey, of C&F Motor Factors, and that the last of them closed down at least 15 years ago.
Keville, who lives nearby, says he would like to see the area regenerated, preferably by small businesses taking over the empty shops. He wouldn’t object to housing either, but says something needs to be done with them.
Caffrey suggested that the shops and the factory could be demolished to provide a much-needed car park for the nearby Coombe Women and Infants Maternity Hospital. He says the site is larger than it appears from the outside.
Locals don’t mind what exactly the vacant buildings are used for but “would like to see something done with them because they are an eyesore”, he said.