For over 30 years, Churchtown Stores stood in the centre of its eponymous suburb. Over the course of their enviable tenure, the family-run hardware shop with its narrow aisles, altitudinous shelving and multitudinous stock took on a quasi-mythical quality. Whatever you needed – even if it’s something you’d never heard of – they had it in Churchtown Stores. So, when the trio of affable brothers behind it decided to take their (well deserved) retirement, news that this venerated institution was reopening as a bar was met with – depending on who you spoke to – a mix of scepticism, befuddlement and intrigue.
On arrival, the first thing you notice is that the shop’s iconic signage remains unmolested but the windows have been stocked with liquor bottles and a small illuminated sign saying “Bar”. Cue psychological alarm bells; I don’t think anyone is crying out for another pub so committed to its schtick that it’ll sell you a punnet of nails to accompany your pint of craft beer. Having crossed the threshold, it’s reassuring (if wildly incongruous) to see that the interior makes no attempt at maintaining any sort of aesthetic appeal to premises’ previous incarnation. In fact, the first thing that strikes the customer is the sheer newness of the space; as the door swings open, the overwhelming bang of freshly laid wood fills the nostrils. A long bar backed by a variety of gins and exotic tonic waters stretches the length of the pub before the space opens up to house some larger tables and deep red Chesterfield couches. The back wall is appointed with floor-to-ceiling shelving densely packed with enough bougie knick-knacks to give Marie Kondo a conniption.
Healthy as this array of geegaws is, there is an obviously wilful curatorial bent. One needn’t look any further than the selection of Punch Magazine-esque cartoons that adorn the walls, each depicting the travails of an unfortunate golfer, to glean the management’s desired clientele – that is to say, people who enjoy jokes about golf. This ambition has borne some fruit; on the Wednesday evening of my visit, though far from rammed, Churchtown Stores was still populated by a respectable amount of curious locals. Tastemakers? Perhaps not. We’re talking about double dating couples in their 60s and a table of middle-aged ladies quaffing fishbowl G&T’s while flirting with the bartender. In the corner, a lone priest does a crossword.
When you consider Churchtown Stores in light of some of its nearest neighbours; The Kiely’s meets TGI Friday’s hellscape of The Bottle Tower and unofficial home of the “Can I Speak to the Manager” set, Union Cafe, it does start to feel a bit like the 3rd point in some sort of Bermuda Triangle of historyless, try-hard Nouveau Dublin. That said, it feels a bit mean-spirited to begrudge suburban denizens of somewhere to read the paper in their approaching dotage. As I potter out into the January evening I nod to the priest, he seems contented enough. That must count for something?
Words: Danny Wilson
Photo: Killian Broderick
5 Braemor Road