By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics: Donal Foley
IT HAS to be one of the great shops of our time.
Unique yes, a word we never use lightly, full of character and with a wonderful character behind the counter, often armed with a scissors, a comb and measuring tape.
It is a man’s shop with an industrious daughter of South Kilkenny calling the shots, an experienced tonsorial artist and a sales woman of umpteen years.
It is perhaps best described as a one-stop shop where a lad can buy a britches, a pair of underpants and get a short back and sides.
Owner is a wonderful woman who loves her business, delights in giving good value to customers and never lets a customer home without gifting him the price of a pint and packet of peanuts.
“I don’t believe in sales,” cheerful and friendly Katriona Murphy told The Reporter. “Often it is a case of putting a price up in order to take it back down again.
“Everyone loves a bargain, I appreciate my customers and I love chatting and then selling to them and the least I can do is to give them discount on their purchases. That is much better than holding sales that are not really sales.”
The shop in Market Street carries the name Woods. Katriona explained that she bought the shop from a woman called Margaret Woods, a prized local business that has stood the test of time since its birth in 1850.
Margaret went behind the counter at the age of 14 and forgot to go home until she retired at the age of 87. Her father and uncle had traded before her.
Katriona, with respect, is a chip off the old block. For as well as cutting your hair and kitting you out with a pair of shoes, she will also entertain you with her super sense of humour that would perhaps charm the birds out of the trees and send customers home with value for money purchases.
“I love the banter. I often have to leave a man with half a haircut to sell a pair of shoes or trousers to another customer. Nobody minds, I am alone in the business, to be honest I couldn’t afford to pay someone else.
“I don’t mind working hard, I take Tuesdays off and spend Sundays playing the organ in my hom area of Hugginstown.
“I’m not playing and praying all the time, I am also noting who might need a haircut,” Katriona grinned.
“I live in Hugginstown and, like Mrs Woods I will probably be in my shop until I am carried out in a box.”
Katriona is daughter of yet another great character, one Teddy McBride who had a shop and a garage in Hugginstown for 47 years.
“My brother Philly is in the motor parts trade and vintners’ business. Philly is not a good advertisement for my barbering.”
Katriona is married to Pat Murphy who she describes as a poor farmer. The couple have three children, Rhona, Carrickshock, Seán, New Zealand and Margaret Mary, a 3rd Year student in Scoil Aireagail, Ballyhale.
Men won’t get to buy a suit in Woods but there is a choice of footwear, casual wear, school uniforms and men’s underwear.
She said to make sure to thank her customers, adding that she appreciated every one of them. “I couldn’t continue in business without them.”
She said she was no relation of one time owner Margaret Woods whose brother was Canon Woods. “We got to be great friends and I ended up buying her shop.
After all our chatter, we almost forgot about the subject we both wanted to highlight.
That was that on Saturday last she celebrated 10 years in business and she threw a party to mark the milestone.
“There is one-stop only in Ireland and I am very proud of it. We had tea and coffee, cake, wine, a free draw and everyone sat around for hours, listening to lively music and chatting.
“The weather was warm and sunny and the craic was mighty. I was delighted with the party. It was the best day I have had in Thomastown since I arrived in a great town.”
She was very proud that her last customer before closing for the Sabbath was 103 years old Dottie Power from Kilfane.
“There are great people of all ages in this area and I am so happy that so many of them choose my novel shop for a haircut or a britches.