Tayto for 10p as Ballymena shop rolls prices back to 1979

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Council Maureen Morrow congratulates Eugene Diamond on 40 years of business in Ballymena
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Council Maureen Morrow congratulates Eugene Diamond on 40 years of business in Ballymena

Bargain hunters in Ballymena were out in force on Thursday as a long-standing shop came up with a unique way to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Diamond’s news agents has been a permanent fixture in the Co Antrim town centre since 1979, and has beaten the odds to remain a thriving business despite stiff competition.

Sandwiched between a Co-Op supermarket and Fairhill Shopping Centre, the tiny premises has built up a loyal following over the decades.

To mark its milestone anniversary – and to say thank you to his customers – owner Eugene Diamond decided to turn back the clock by selling several popular items at 1979 prices.

When it first opened its doors on Broughshane Street 40 years ago, Diamond’s only sold milk in pints, as it didn’t come in any other size.

As a throw back to those days, pints of milk were being sold for 15p on Thursday.

A Mars bar would have set you back 14p, and a bag of Tayto crisps, an old staple, were going for just 10p.

Sensibly, the offers were limited to one per customer.

“People in Ballymena know what a bargain is,” Eugene jokingly told the News Letter.

“We had Ruffle bars at 5p, which turned out to be a very popular seller, as were Ritchies Cinnamon Lozenges, which is a very Northern Ireland thing.

“I had to make sure I got the prices right because you would get pulled up on that sort of thing in Ballymena.”

Some newspapers were sold at the prices they were on the day the shop opened, such as the The Irish News , which was only 5p.

Many of Eugene’s customers shared their memories of prices from yesteryear.

“One man told me that he still has his rent book, and his rent to the Housing Executive used to be £4, it is now £440. I just couldn’t take that in,” he added.

“Sweets haven’t went up in price just as much as that.

“I had a few customers who have been coming to me these last 40 years and they bought me cards and other gifts. This was the shop their parents would have brought them to get sweets when they were young.”

When Eugene first rented the vacant premises all those years ago, little did he expect that he would still be in business four decades later.

He added: “Times are different now, I have had to change with the times.

“When I started there were about 30 of us in the town, now there are not many left. We are falling by the wayside.

“When I opened up it was beside Fairhill cattle market, now I am beside Fairhill shopping centre.

“To be truthful, the shopping centre has been as good to me as they can be, as many of the staff know me and they come and go quite a bit.”

While he acknowledged that he “will have to think about retiring at some point,” Eugene, who is in his early sixties, says he has no immediate plans to leave behind the job he loves any time soon.

“My father worked all his life building pylons, and he worked hard for the money he had,” he added.

“I have had to get up early in the mornings for a lot of years but other than that I haven’t had to work too hard. So I see it as being a privilege doing what I do.

“I can talk all day, so that definitely helps.”