King of the Castle in Castletroy
A strong focus on delivering an excellent deli, alongside first-class customer service has resulted in Chawke’s Centra of Castletroy, Co. Limerick, scooping the GoldNational Award for large stores sized between 4,000 and 8,000 sq ft
16 January 2015
Owner: Tom Chawke
Store manager: Tom Duggan
Size: 4,700 sq ft
Staff: 60; 40 full-time and 20 part-time
A well-known figure in the trade, Tom Chawke, the owner of Chawke’s Centra in Castletroy, Co. Limerick, will soon be retiring. Winning a Gold Award at the ShelfLife National C-Store Awards was subsequently a fitting send-off for a retailer who has demonstrated huge dedication over the years towards ensuring his business continues to flourish.
According to store manager Tom Duggan: “After many years in the business, it’s great that he won this award in his final year; it’s a great send-off for him and he’s delighted to win it. On a personal note, I’d like to wish him all the best and I’m sure I speak for the whole team here when I say we’ve learnt so much from him and where he’s brought this site from. From a little cottage in 1983, to where it is today and what it is today, a booming Centra/Texaco filling station where we have over 22,000 transactions a week. It’s a testament to him and all his hard work over the years. He’s an inspiration to us all.”
Building up a local reputation
A local Castletroy man, Tom Chawke first converted a small cottage on the site into a shop in 1983. Then in 1998, he obtained planning permission to open a petrol station alongside the existing business and teamed up with Texaco. Previously with Mace, the store changed to Centra in 2008, and was refurbished at this point. A major revamp followed in August 2012, when the shop expanded from approximately 2,500 sq ft to 4,700 sq ft.
The store manager of Chawke’s Centra in Castletroy since 2000, Tom Duggan has also experienced an interesting past within the retail trade. He started out as a trainee manager at the London and Newcastle Tea Co. (known locally as L&N) in Tipperary town in 1990. Several years later when the L&N chain was acquired by the Musgrave Group, he became an assistant supervisor at the SuperValu in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. His next move was to Mace where he served as store manager of Mace in Craughwell, Co. Galway between 1997 and 2000. Originally from Tipperary, the move to his current position in Castletroy gave Duggan an opportunity to move back closer to home where he says, “it’s been going great” ever since.
Deli an important attraction
Situated on a busy road, with the University of Limerick only 1km away, and a new Gaelscoil opening up nearby during the summer, business is thriving at the popular store, which is open 24 hours a day. However with a significant amount of competition on its doorstep, including a SuperValu (previously Superquinn Castletroy) behind the store, a Lidl across the road and a Dunnes Stores supermarket just 2km away – a strong deli department acts as a key point of difference for Chawke’s Centra over and above its rivals. Customers from a nearby technological business park have plenty of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options to choose from at its deli. The store even installed a dedicated Centra soup station last year which is currently performing well.
Local suppliers form a key ingredient in the deli department’s success, according to Duggan, who notes: “We deal with a lot of local suppliers. For example, we get sausages from a local supplier and those have just taken off; the quality is fantastic. We source from local suppliers who aim for higher quality than the standard product and it really works in our deli.”
Supporting the local community
Giving back to the local community is likewise important at Chawke’s Centra, which sponsors the local Monaleen GAA team, as well as supporting the Milford Hospice for the elderly and St Vincent’s Hospital of Lisnagry, every year.
Hard work on behalf of the entire team resulted in the store earning the award which Duggan says they were “absolutely delighted” to receive. Customer service is a lynchpin in staff training at Chawke’s Centra, where Duggan praises Centra’s ‘I Care’ customer service training programme, for helping to ensure high standards are maintained.
Mary Frewen, the store’s assistant manager and a further five supervisors all help keep the store ship-shape. “We have a great team, many of whom have been here many years,” Duggan notes. The store manager says he visits competing stores to pick up new ideas and therefore knew at first hand, the excellent standards delivered by the finalists shortlisted for this year’s awards. “They’re excellent stores, so we are absolutely delighted and humbled to win our Gold Award.”