Family-run Co Antrim business shuts up shop after 200 years

McAlister's shop in Cushendall has been a part of the fabric of the Glens of Antrim for over 200 years
McAlister's shop in Cushendall has been a part of the fabric of the Glens of Antrim for over 200 years

One of the oldest family-run businesses in Northern Ireland – which can trace its roots back over 200 years – is to close its doors for the final time today.

McAlister’s Supermarket has been based in Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim since the 1790s and has survived the 1798 rebellion, the famine, and two world wars.

McAlister's shop in Cushendall

McAlister's shop in Cushendall

The business on Shore Street provided a vital service to a community that was cut off from other parts of the country before the construction of the Antrim Coast Road in the 1840s.

Over the centuries, McAlister’s has traded in everything from drapery to ammunition, from groceries to animal meal, from hardware to porter level, even tickets for the White Star Line, sister ship to the Titanic.

The shop also served as a place for people to meet and chat, especially older people.

However, a multitude of factors have combined to make the business no longer sustainable, and it is now on the market for a buyer.

Owner Andrew McAlister has said: “The shop has been part of the fabric of the Glens, playing a vital role in the area, over the past 200 years.

“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.”

Andrew’s daughter Anne Mercer said the decision to close the shop weighed heavily on her father.

But she said there were numerous reasons why it had to happen.

She added: “Life in the village has changed a lot. My sisters and I decided not to take on the business, because opportunities just aren’t there anymore.

“A lot of people tend to do their shopping online and there just isn’t the same footfall as there used to be,which has led to in a significant downturn for us.”

However, Anne said that while her 59-year-old father will no doubt miss running the historic family business, she is confident he will have plenty to keep him occupied.

She added: “He is also the local undertaker, the voluntary manager of the local RNLI and works for the council, so he will definitely be kept busy.”