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Inside this iconic family business... and what keeps it going after 43 years

The Danny Ryan Music Shop in Tipperary Town has a new hand on the till for the first time since 1971.

The Ryan family in front of their Tipperary Town store

MICHAEL JOHN RYAN wants people to know that running a family business is not an easy job – and he should know, he’s been working in one since the age of 11.

“There is a lot of work involved, you put a lot of hours into a business that people don’t see,” he said.

“It is not just opening the door at half 9 or 10 o’clock then closing when it’s over. The thing is to enjoy it really – to have fun in the business.”

Ryan recently took over the iconic business his parents Danny and Helen founded, the Danny Ryan Music Shop in Tipperary Town, when they retired after 43 years at the helm.

“It has probably been on the cards for a long time. My father is very active – it was just up to him when he wanted to retire. He’s 78 now.”

Ryan, who is also a violinist, said he had spent most of his life in the store and had first started doing “odd jobs” in the store on Saturdays when he was still in primary school.

The students that my father has taught are bringing in their kids for lessons. They’re buying instruments and getting lessons, they have fond memories about their times here.”

CKp D Ryan Music1 Danny Ryan on the accordion and Michael John Ryan on the violin at the store's 40th birthday bash

‘Ups and downs’ in family business

The Tipperary shop is one of the estimated three-quarters of all businesses in Ireland that are family-owned, a sector which delivers about half of all jobs in private industry.

Ryan said over the years the store had its “ups and downs” as the economy fluctuated and as taxes on music instruments hit up to 35% – but 2014 was still a good year to be in the business.

At the moment it is a good time for the music business because people have gone back to more traditional values and they are valuing the benefits of learning an instrument as opposed to playing video games,” he said.

Online equipment sales, often to overseas retailers, had taken a slice out of the trade, but Ryan said the store had carved a niche because it carefully picked its products – and then stood behind them.

“That’s why we are in business for 43 years – because people trust us, they know our name,” he said.

Ryan said he hoped one day to hand the business over to the third generation, one of his children who are currently aged 7 and 9, although he “would never force them or anything”.

All this year, TheJournal.ie has featured stories about – and for – the key Irish small- and medium-enterprise (SME) sector. To browse this collection click here

READ: How to: Get customers to travel across the country to a small store in a regional town >

READ: SME book club: Surviving a family business… with your sanity and relationships intact >

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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