Independent retailers in Northern Ireland might be wallowing in the economic doldrums – but a new family-run supermarket will provide the sector with a beacon of hope when it opens to the public today with the creation of 150 jobs.
The Conway family from Cookstown are opening their second supermarket in Coalisland, a town which has lacked major employment since the decline of the coal industry from which it takes its name.
Colin Conway, a director of Newell Stores, said the new 25,000 sq ft shop was "a welcome boost" for the town.
Mr Conway said: "This is also a major step for our family business, which has been built up over the generations." He said he felt that the time was right for the Tyrone business to grow.
"We had done well in Dungannon and we had a site here in the town centre. It was a perfect time to bring something local into a town centre needing regeneration."
And he said he believed there was demand for a third supermarket in the town, which has a population of around 4,900 and has a SuperValu and Rice's, another independent.
A decision by the Department of the Environment to give planning permission to the supermarket last year prompted Musgrave Retail Partners to apply for a judicial review. Musgrave operates the town's SuperValu supermarket.
Mr Conway said: "There was due process to go through and we have followed the right procedure."
Musgrave also said developer Rossdale Developments had started work before planning permission was granted.
The company acknowledged doing so, but said it was because the site contained derelict buildings where anti-social activities were taking place. Giving his judgment last year, Mr Justice Maguire said: "The approach taken by the developer in the court's view does it no credit."
Musgrave's appeal will be heard after Easter. No one from Musgrave was available for comment on Monday.
The Conway family, originally from Cookstown but now living in Dungannon, are opening their second supermarket in Tyrone. The firm said the Coalisland store would create 150 jobs, while restructuring their Dungannon store would add another 33. The £8.5m investment has been supported by Danske Bank. The family first opened a shop in 1988 before their supermarket Newell (named after its Newell Road location). It's still a family affair, with founders Eugene and Marion Conway and their children Colin, Joseph, Petra, Annie and Rosie all involved.