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'Everybody knows each other's names': The difference a local store can make to a community

We visit Centra in Charleville, Co Cork, to understand how a shop helps support those around it.

Journal Media Studio / YouTube

“WE GREW UP here, and we went to school in the community, so we feel a great sense of belonging.”

That’s Brendan Lee, speaking in Charleville, Co Cork. Together with his brother Ray, he is co-owner of the two Centra stores that provide the town with groceries, coffee, deli food and other essentials. 

“Charleville is a very tight knit community, everybody knows each other’s names,” he laughs. “We’re quite happy to give back to the community and do what we can to help.”

Brendan serving a customer at one of the two Centra stores in Charleville

Having started the business back in 2004, the Lee brothers now directly employ 70 people in the town across the two outlets – one at the heart of Main Street, the other in a newer forecourt building on the Limerick Road. The economic impact of the two shops, though, is likely larger still.

Between them, the stores employ 70 people in the local area

Centra directly employs an impressive 11,716 people across 483 stores in towns and villages around Ireland. But according to a recent report compiled by leading economist Jim Power, the retailer’s outlets in fact support more than triple that number of jobs across the country -  over 38,000 in total, contributing an estimated €646.7million to local economies.

Charleville, Co Cork. Centra supports more than 38,000 jobs in communities around the country

That’s before the €3.4million contributed to charities over the last year. This can take many forms, from supporting local sports teams – “our GAA club is very strong,” says Brendan, “and we’re the main sponsors of juvenile GAA which we have been for many years now” – to regular charity events. 

“We do the Action Breast Cancer walk, we organise that in October,” says Elaine Kirwan, who has worked at the shop through two decades and is now store manager. “When it’s for a good cause, everyone – everyone – gives a hand.”

Manager Elaine Kirwan has worked at the store through two decades

Lee’s Centra in Charleville, like the retailer’s other stores around the country, is now investing heavily in sustainability. “It’s a key area which we’re working on at the moment,” says Brendan. “We’re the first retailer to bring out fully compostable shopping bags, and also our Frank and Honest coffee cups and lids are 100% compostable.” 

Centra’s aim is to reach 100% sustainable deli packaging, with innovations including recyclable clingfilm and compostable sandwich wrapping paper. At the end of 2021, 82% of the retailer’s deli packaging was recyclable, reusable or compostable. By the end of this year, the figure will be 92%.

SON3465-085 Centra is investing in a journey to 100% sustainable deli packaging Centra Centra

The aim is to add 18 more stores around Ireland before the end of 2022, creating 430 more jobs in local communities in the process. “There’s a fantastic team of people in our stores – they wouldn’t be what they are without them,” says Brendan. “We do what we can to build a strong, vibrant community here.”

Centra stores are at the heart of communities all around Ireland, and we’re investing in our shared future. From creating jobs, to supporting local charities, to our journey to 100% sustainable packaging – we’re committed to building a business with a positive impact. To find out more, visit centra.ie.

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