Belfast Telegraph

Newsagent rolls back the years with 1979 prices

Crisps at 10p to celebrate four decades in business

Eugene Diamond
Eugene Diamond
Eugene Diamond
Eugene's dad John in the shop in the 1980s
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A Co Antrim newsagent has celebrated 40 years in business by selling favourite products from yesteryear at the price they sold for when he first opened his doors.

Picking up the keys to premises in Broughshane Street, Ballymena, on August 1, 1979, a 21-year-old Eugene Diamond started paying the rent that day.

A week later the doors opened. Forty years later the door remain open, and Eugene, now 61, is still running his shop in a town that has seen four decades of change.

Dad John, brothers Pat and Terry and wife Janice all helped out in those early days and Diamond's remains one of the most popular places in town, where regulars still pop in for a chat. And that, said Eugene, is the secret of his success - passing the time of day with customers.

"I'd always fancied a life in retail," he said. "I'd been working in a shop and when that closed I thought why not give it a go myself.

"But picking up the keys 40 years ago, I didn't think I'd still be using them today!

"We were right beside a farmers' market then. Today we're in the shadow of Fairhill Shopping Centre.

"In some respects that's done me a favour. The footfall increased. New people were coming around and got to know us.

"What you get at Diamond's is a welcome, a friendly chat. It would surprise you how many lonely people there are. No-one is ever rushed out. We like to spend some time with people and I'd like to think that's why customers have remained loyal.

"I'm actually still using the same supplies I started out with 40 years ago."

That helped yesterday when, to celebrate the 40th anniversary, some of the most popular stock was on offer at 1979 prices.

"Tayto crisps were 10p, 14p for a Mars Bar, 15p for a pint of milk," said Eugene. "It's something to say thanks to those who have supported me.

"Newspapers used to be central to the business," he said. "It's sad to say, but the Troubles sold papers. In the 1980s there would be a delivery of over 500 copies of the Belfast Telegraph every night. A business like mine thrived on the back of that.

"But there are not too many independent shop owners left now. What we need to see is more mums and dads taking their children into town centres. Community support is vital."

Four decades of early mornings, dealing with the emergence of Fairhill, resisting offers to sell the property, which he eventually bought outright - there's been plenty to keep Eugene on his toes.

"I start every day at 5am and the doors are open at 5.30. That's been my life. Despite losing some major employment in the last few years, some people still work in Ballymena. They still come in and I'll be there for them until I retire."

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