A Cushendall family business which can trace its roots back to the late 1700s is set to close its doors for the final time on Friday 1 December. McAlister’s Supermarket, which traded under the Mace group, is one of the oldest family-run businesses in Northern Ireland, and has been based in Shore Street in the village since the 1790s.
A business with a rich history in the grocery trade, the business survived the 1798 rebellion, the famine, and two World Wars, providing a vital service to a community that was cut off from other parts of the country before the construction of the Coast Road in the 1840s.
Over the centuries, the business was a general merchants in the truest sense of the word, trading in everything from drapery to ammunition and from groceries to animal meal, from hardware to porter level, even tickets for the White Star Line, sister ship to the Titanic.
However with the closure of the business, owner Andrew McAlister has said that more must be done to support small businesses in rural communities to prevent them becoming “dormitories for urban areas:”
“McAlister’s shop has been part of the fabric of the Glens, playing a vital role in the area over the past 200 years, and is one of the oldest family business in the north. Whilst our trade latterly was in grocery, the shop, as most small businesses in rural villages are, is also a place for people to meet and chat, particularly for older people.
“However, as so many services have become centralised and online, and with big supermarket chains able to offer prices that smaller businesses simply can’t compete with, rural communities are essentially being hollowed out. With so many small businesses falling victim to this, it is not only the businesses that stand to suffer, but so too will the very essence of community spirit.
“We hear much of the importance of city deals, but it is also essential that rural communities are supported with incentives and measures to regenerate our rural settlements. Failure to act on this will only bring more inequality and disconnection of the values that communities like Cushendall champion so well, and that’s not something we can afford to lose.”