Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lilliput Stores, Rosemount Terrace, Arbour Hill

Lilliput Stores, Rosemount Terrace, Dublin 7
Talk about timing. It was May 2007, just months before the Irish economy would implode dramatically like a neutron star. I can't imagine a more difficult time to start a new business in Dublin.

Yet that's the very time that a tiny greengrocers and deli called the Lilliput Stores first opened its doors. Or, strictly speaking, door (singular).

The Celtic Tiger boom hadn't reached some parts of Dublin, and in retailing terms this stretch of Arbour Hill was already in disastrous shape.

Donlon's, the "corner shop" at number 1 Rosemount Terrace (it's not really a physical corner), had closed down a few years before. Four doors down, the tight little shop at number 5 was now vacant too - the Lilliput Press, which had been on the terrace since 1989, had moved around the corner to much larger premises on Sitric Road a few years earlier.

When the new deli moved into 5 Rosemount Terrace it kept the Lilliput connection. And the same year a disused joinery next door at number 6 became a not-for-profit art space called, suitably enough, The Joinery. Just trying to survive was tough enough, yet things were beginning to look up.

An Aladdin's Cave

Note that Lilliput's full name is the Lilliput Stores (plural), which doesn't give justice to its scale. The place is basically one tiny room, standing room only.

Yet somehow it manages to cram in an Aladdin's Cave of fruit and veg, bread, artisan cheese and charcuterie (including an Irish smoked chorizo), oils and all the other kinds of staples you'd find in a good Italian store cupboard, and coffee that's roasted weekly by the Ariosa Coffee Roasting Company.

No wonder the shop keeps turning up in every Moss Reid novel. Moss is a foodie who happens to be a private eye, so he was bound to pop in to stock up his provisions on a regular basis (or at least if he had any clients this week).

The shop is run by Brendan O’Mahony, owner of the Dublin branch of the Real Olive Company, and is open seven days a week. It's all grey paint, blackboards and shelves, with a front window that always has tasteful decorations.

Under this window is a grey wooden bench where you can eat your freshly made sandwiches or drink your takeaway coffee. Outside business hours the bench folds away to keep it out of the way of passers-by on the narrow pavement as darkness falls.

The bench outside the Lilliput Stores in Arbour Hill

That bench is just a little touch, yet the Built Dublin blog says that this neat little seat

emphasises the sociable, community nature of the shop by facilitating a chat with a cup of coffee or a sandwich. The city could always do with more places to sit, but this one does even more than that.

In 2012 Lilliput won the "Local Shop" category in the Irish Times's "Best Shops in Ireland" competition. Over half a decade after opening, it has not only survived but thrived.

Lilliput Stores
5 Rosemount Terrace
Arbour Hill
Dublin 7
Twitter: @LilliputStores