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May 2019
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2005-11-08 Here's to Sligo's hallmark shops

I think perhaps I have always confused my hallmarks and my trademarks. Both hallmarks and trademarks possess typically distinguishing features, both guaranteeing authenticity.


A hallmark is also a supposed guarantee of genuineness and excellence. A trademark is registered officially, and protects by law a name, symbol, sound, colour or design, which identifies the product in question.


Trademarks such as the roar of the lion heralding an MGM movie, Nipper the Jack Russell listening to His Master's Voice, the affable Green Giant, or the shape of the bottle and distinctive script used in Coca-Cola are all indisputably world-famous trademarks. When I was growing up, thanks to the media certain surnames seemed synonymous with certain towns - Todds of Limerick, Moons of Galway, McElhinneys of Ballybofey, Switzers of Dublin, and the rather unfortunately-named "Hore's Stores" in Wexford.


Our own town had surnames which seemed to my young mind to be exclusively Sligo names, giving our town its unique stamp or hallmark. Names such as Feehily, Fennel, Taheny, Tansey, Moody, Peebles, Keohane, Koss, Cosgrove, Barton-Smith, Mullaney, Lyons, Slowey, Blackwood, Wehrly, Meldrum, Broderick, and Woods, all seemed to give Sligo its stamp of individuality and authenticity. And who can forget that rather incongruously-named solicitor's firm opposite the courthouse, established in 1919 by W.H. Argue and Talbot Phibbs? You couldn't make it up if you tried - "Argue and Phibbs Solicitors".


Sadly, however, as another hallmark Sligo business - Woods - closes its doors, Sligo loses a little more of its matchless fabric, moving another step towards retail globalisation. Another hallmark surname which always brought a smile to my face was "Hopper". A recently discovered rental agreement with a painter/glazier, Michael Hopper of No. 2 Riverside traces this unusual surname back to the 19th century. There was an Archbishop Hopper in Edinburgh in the 16th century, but it's thought that the Hoppers may have arrived in Sligo around the time of the Wynne Estate in Hazelwood.


The name Hopper springs up (pun intended) throughout Calry, Killery, and the rest of Sligo/Leitrim. As with such surnames as Cooper, Miller, Tanner and Taylor, one could make an intelligent guess as to the origin of the name, perhaps hop-pickers or loaders, though there is also a theory that an ancestor may have simply had a limp!


When Sligo's Frank Hopper went into business with Cork's Kate Pettit in December 1982 in Market Street, Sligo's most famous twin-shop was born. Twenty-three years later, this hallmark Sligo business - "Kate's Kitchen / Hopper and Pettit" -continues to go from strength to strength. To signal the new millenium, the business moved to a larger premises in 2000, to No. 3 Castle Street. Frank's father Mickey, an amateur historian and Field Club member, worked first in a pawnshop and later in "House for Men" (run by James Costello, and later by James' daughter, Kathleen - a gentle lady and fine viola- player). Next door to "House for Men" was "House for Wines (I am not sure if it was planned that way). Thankfully, Austin Kielty managed to preserve the distinctive columns and corbels from Down's "House of Wines" from destruction, so that they now form the distinctive frontage for "Kate's Kitchen / Hopper and Pettit", while also making a charming link with the past.


As its publicity rightly says, "Kate's Kitchen" is a `veritable treasury of gourmet delights'. Its impressive array of Irish, English and continental cheeses, picnic hampers, addictive home-made salmon paté, locally-produced pasta by Noodle House, mouth-watering organic ice-cream, delightfully sinful tea brack and carrot cake, top-brand jams and chutneys, and recently-returned prepared salad range are just a taster-selection of the ever-popular produce on offer. Kate's sister, Marie, also provides a range of exquisite dishes from the O'Keeffe restaurant kitchens in Clonakilty.


When a toiletry shop was added to the business, Hopper and Pettit introduced Sligo to the celebrated and exclusive Crabtree&Evelyn Range (itself a distinctive brand, named after the 17th Century English conservationist John Evelyn, and the wild apple/crabtree symbol). As well as the largest range of Crabtree&Evelyn in the country, Hopper and Pettit also stock Seavite, Floris and most recently the Proven-based exclusive "L'Occitane" range, now hugely popular worldwide (500 L'Occitane shops in six countries). As Sligo moves closer to becoming more and more globalised, may our remaining hallmark Sligo shops continue to exhibit their excellence and uniqueness.