Rejuvenated in Roscrea      

Centra Roscrea on the Carrig Road has an inviting exterior which reflects the store’s high standards inside

Taking over the family business 20 years after his father founded it was no easy task for John Carroll, but a new partnership with Centra and a strong standing in the community make for a bright future, writes Doug Whelan



14 July 2015

Share this post:





Carrig Road Service Station, Carrig Road, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary

Manager/Co-owner: John Carroll

Size: 2,000 sq ft

Staff: 15

Opening hours: 6am – 11am Monday – Sunday


There are any number of things that set Carrig Road Service Station in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary apart, but one of the store’s most notable elements is a picture hanging on the wall for all to see. It shows Pat Carroll, the store’s original owner and founder, riding a moped with his goldilocked granddaughter, both having the time of their lives. To regular and long-term customers of the store, its staff and especially manager/co-owner John Carroll, the picture is a reminder of the man who opened the shop almost 20 years ago. Pat sadly passed away last year after a short illness, and the running of the store fell to his son John. “This is our family business,” John Carroll says, “that my father built from scratch. My mother is the owner now and I run the place.”

Carroll’s began life back in the mid-1990s, when Pat Carroll spotted an opportunity. A new ring-road was being built to bypass Roscrea, so he bought a plot of land on the new route, on which he would establish a new service station. “At that time there were just cows grazing in fields all around here,” Carroll quips, “and we bought the site with the intention of developing it.” Prior to this, the family business was a Shell station that formerly sat on Roscrea’s Dublin road, a very busy location before the newer roads were built in the area. “That was extremely busy at the time,” he recalls, “and it was completely focused on fuel”.

Back in those days, readers will recall, petrol stations didn’t even sell coffee, let alone provide the goods and services they do today, amounting in some cases to almost an entire week’s shopping. “You’d be lucky to get a bar of chocolate at the till,” as Carroll puts it. That was when he started his involvement with the family business, helping out around the place as a teenager, before the family opened their new location on Carrig Road. It took some time for the business – encompassing a Topaz fuel station and convenience store – to take off, Carroll reveals, but once it did they were able to sell part of the land to McDonalds, and things have been ticking over nicely ever since.

In the beginning, Carrig Road Service Station was a 500 sq ft premises under the name of BWG Nearby. In 2007, the family redeveloped the site, extending the store to 1,000 sq ft and rebranding to Spar, before extending the store again, this time to an impressive 2,000 sq ft under the Centra brand. “My father always said you have to redevelop every seven or eight years in order to keep up with the times and with the market,” Carroll says. “Our last redevelopment was in response to the new bypass here, and also the Obama Plaza opening over in Moneygall [just 14km down the road]. Both of those changes took a huge amount of volume from our pumps.”

Attracting more chimney pots

Brid Carroll, Mary Carroll and John Carroll

Brid Carroll, Mary Carroll and John Carroll

When that service station with the presidential name opened last summer, passing trade at Carroll’s began to fall overnight, so the retailer and his team realised they needed to rethink their strategy. “We always felt that local people might have chosen not to come to us because it was busy with traffic,” he says. “So when volume from passing trade started to fall, we realised we were going to need to change our focus to attract more local people, more ‘chimney pots’ as my father used to call them – because they would be coming from the estates in the area.

“We had to change people’s opinion of the shop,” Carroll continues, “and what they could use it for, and that’s where Centra have been really helpful for us, with the offering of fresh food they bring to the table.”

Carroll says local trade has picked up significantly since the rebrand and renovation, and while he doesn’t expect customers to always do their weekly shop in his place, the use of baskets on the shop floor is on the increase, which is a very encouraging sign. “In the past we never would have done much in the way of fruit and veg,” Carroll explains, “but since we became Centra it has gone up loads, three or even four times as much. The frozen food section has slowed down a bit, other than our special offers which always go quite quickly. So for now it’s a case of keeping the signs up and reminding people that we’re here.”


The store’s coffee station offers a rich full roast alongside freshly baked treats

Carroll’s Centra employs 15 staff, two of whom are part-time and several who work three day weeks. One of Carroll’s staff has been with the shop since “day one”, and many have been there for several years, which makes for a good working atmosphere where there is always time for a bit of horsing around.

“Too much messing might mean I have more work to do later,” Carroll says, possibly only half-joking, “so I do limit the craic when I have to!”

John was also full of praise for the more personable elements of his new business relationship with Centra. “There was a time I might have only known two or three people from the parent company,” he explains, “but with Musgrave I’ve met so many people, from going to different events, and from them [visiting] to see the place and look at the concepts and so on. Musgrave creates a community, definitely.

“The levels of support I receive from Musgrave are huge, and really add value to my business. Their belief in the unique partnership model truly comes to life when you can call upon the numerous dedicated teams who are fully focused on driving all aspects of my business, like profitability, energy management and customer service, to name just a few,” Carroll says.

The company organises an annual conference of its retailers, he says, while there’s a smaller “huddle” every few months where retailers get together to address individual objectives and talk through issues that affect them. “You can talk things through on seasonal plans and objectives for different periods,” he adds, “like Christmas, or summer. It can be really helpful”.

Local crust

A strong value proposition is evident throughout the store

A strong value proposition is evident throughout the store

As for stock, Carroll is happy to accept Centra’s recommendations on fruit and veg and so on, but also takes encouragement from them on using local suppliers where possible. “It’s important for any business,” he says, “and we stock bread from a local bakery not far from here – Stapleton’s. I think they might be country-wide now, but they’ve certainly been our supplier for a long, long time now.”

Carroll is very proud of the most recent extensions and improvements that have been made to the store. For one thing, his Centra is as energy efficient as they come, with LED lights across the whole shop and forecourt, solar panels on the roof, and state-of-the-art dairy walls and drinks fridges that use a fraction of the energy of traditional refrigerators. “We have twice as much floor space, and twice as many fridges as before,” he says, “but our energy bill is down by about €500 per month.”

Further to the practical savings the energy efficient and renewable energy sources the shop has introduced, a further effect of the initiative is that a local GAA club was able to benefit through rebates, part of another Musgrave scheme. “So us getting this equipment in had a great knock-on effect,” Carroll says.

Another new element in the renovation is Centra’s ice cream parlour, which provides scoops, slushies, milkshakes and the like. It’s a sort of interactive affair, where customers can create their own flavours by choosing a chocolate bar off the shelf that staff will then whizz in to a milkshake. (ShelfLife opted for a Kinder Bueno milkshake and it was really something!).

Future plans

Manager/co-owner John Carroll

Manager/co-owner John Carroll

Carroll has also added an off-licence area which is performing well and plans to harness social media as a way of promoting his premises in the local area too.

As the most recent renovation has been such a success, he wouldn’t rule out making plans for further expansion in the future. “As I said, my dad always said it’s important to freshen the place up every seven or eight years,” he says. “We’re tight for space, so we would need to move our brush wash in order to extend again. If I was going to do that, we’d need to be certain it would be worthwhile. It’s a big investment after all. But our sales are up and the renovation has been a great success so you never know. We’ll wait another year and then decide whether it’d be a good idea to expand again.”






Share this post:

Back to Top ↑

Shelflife Magazine