There was a surprise in store for well-known and long-serving Banbridge trader Jack Crory as he marked his 90th birthday on Thursday.
Clothier Jack is indisputably a veteran of town centre trade, to which he has devoted fully 73 of his 90 years, a man whose business has stood the test of time and weathered decades of change and challenge.
Over the years many another trader has benefitted from Jack’s support and advice and it was that spirit of common purpose that his fellow Bridge Street retailers chose to recognise last week.
Rallied by a relative newcomer to their ranks, many of Jack’s fellow traders gathered in secrecy at the Rosehip cafe, there to celebrate with a man who, as much as any other, typifies the resilience of Banbridge’s business community.
The organiser of the event was Claire Mann, of Crory’s near neighbour ‘Retro Revival’, established only last year.
“Jack is 90 years old and still working in retail,” she said.
“Obviously he’s seen a vast amount of change; he’s worked in retail since he was 17 and he has lived through all sorts of tough times, from recessions to bombs.
“Here he is, still fit and going strong long past retirement.
“I just thought it would be a nice gesture to recognise that on the day of his birthday.”
Claire said she personally had found Jack’s support of great help as she embarked on her own venture.
“Mine’s a new business,” she said, “and he has been so very, very supportive and thoughtful; he comes in every morning and every evening.
“Everyone, all the traders, do support each other, because it’s so hard.
“It’s such hard going with retail as it is; no two days are the same.
“It’s good to share positive feedback and it’s really important that everyone supports each other.”
It was a measure of that support, said Claire, that almost every trader in Bridge Street attended last week’s surprise gathering at the Rosehip, who, in a “very generous” gesture of their own, supplied tea and cake for all.
“Jack was very touched,” she said.
“He didn’t realise so many people would go and he wondered how I knew so many people, having been here only a short time.
“I told him that at the end of the day his was a big achievement.
“I told him he had inspired me as a businesswoman and it was only a small gesture to thank him for all his support and honour the fact that he is a pillar of the community and has done so much for everyone.”