Former bank wins new lease of life as butcher’s shop

Former bank wins new lease of life as butcher’s shop

A former bank building in Co Fermanagh has just won a new lease of life this summer – as a butcher’s shop.

Butcher Stephen Millar says he had been looking for larger premises for a long time, but found the perfect location when the historic Ulster Bank building across the street in Irvinestown came up for sale.

“I had been looking and looking, and then the former Ulster Bank came up for auction – and I knew that was the one I wanted,” Stephen says.

“I purchased and made the decision to start the work on it literally as Covid was kicking in – so that delayed the whole process by a lot. And when you purchase an old building you probably don’t realise the amount of problems you’re going to encounter as well.

“At times it felt as if we were never going to get there, but we did and we opened this summer. There are still bits and pieces to do but we’re delighted with it and the feedback from people has been amazing.

“A lot of people in the town have been very nostalgic about it and they’re glad to see the old building being used again.”

The renovation of the building proved challenging, taking more than two years, but the results are spectacular.

“One of the first things was getting rid of the safes. There were two safe rooms and we needed machinery to lift them out, they were so heavy,” Stephen says.

“There’s a lovely safe at the front where people would have lodged money into the night safe. So we kept it as a feature and everybody notices it.

“Because we were going from an office to a retail space, everything had to be Building Control compliant, so there was a huge amount of work there, and then conforming with disability legislation as well – there were a lot of hoops to go through.”

Well known local historian Briege McCusker sourced a photo of how the main street in Irvinestown looked years ago.

“We managed to put it on the side of a chill, so whatever way it looks, it looks as if it’s 3D and as if youre looking down into the street in Irvinestown years ago,” Stephen says.

“The first couple of days it opened I couldn’t believe people’s response to it – particularly for older people in the town, it was really nostalgic.”

Stephen describes the look of the interior as traditional with a modern twist.

“Everything is white and grey and then the ceiling is a darker colour with really bright lights. One of the main features is the beautiful terrazzo floor and I have to say the amount of comments we’ve had on it is amazing.

“It’s kind of white but it’s brought in coppers and greys, so we haven‘t gone with any real colours as such – I just wanted to keep it black and white and grey with a splash of gold in the floor.”

There are even plans for a memorabilia wall reflecting the history of the building – and featuring some of the Henri Hippo merchandise that many Ulster Bank customers fondly remember.

To read the full feature, watch out for our next issue of Neighbourhood Retailer.