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Andres Poveda
m kelly interiors

'In the lean times we didn't have a sausage. Now feck that, we can make money again'

As part of our How My Business Works series, we profile M. Kelly Interiors.

GROWING UP, MATTHEW Kelly could hardly avoid a job in retail given his father’s profession.

The late Des Kelly, who died in 2016, was one of Dublin’s most recognisable names in the carpet and furniture business, with stores across the capital in which Kelly and his seven siblings regularly worked.

“I would have started with my dad when I was a kid really. When I was 10 or 11 myself and my brothers and sisters would be doing leaflets for the business. Then when I was older I would have worked in the shop at the weekends,” Kelly tells Fora.

“I loved working with my dad and being financially independent from a young age when most of my friends wouldn’t have had a bob to their name. I wasn’t spoiled though – Dad wouldn’t have given us a penny without earning it.”

But Kelly wasn’t completely certain that he wanted to keep working in the family firm, harbouring ambitions to start his own company.

At 18 he went to study business, however, when his wife became pregnant, Kelly ended up leaving college and going back to work for his father full-time.

“I ran the shop in Glasnevin; it was the only branch we had at that stage. Then when I was about 23 we opened the shop in Sallynoggin, and I’ve been here ever since.”

M Kelly 002 Matthew Kelly in the Sallynoggin store Andres Poveda Andres Poveda

Kelly continued running the south Dublin outlet for more than a decade until deciding that it was time to go out on his own.

“When I was around 37. I was still working for my dad as an employee. So I put it to him, ‘Dad, either make me a director or cut me loose.’ He agreed, so we came up with a plan where I would buy his share of the store.

“That was 2006, and I didn’t realise there was a really bad time coming.”

Tough times

At the time he took over the store in Sallynoggin, as well as another outlet in Nutgrove, Kelly says that business was good and he was in a strong position financially.

“I would have had a couple of houses at that stage. In 2007 I sold a lot of properties to a developer, and I got about €2.5 million.

“Everyone was saying buy bank shares, buy this, buy that. But I decided to invest in my business. I paid my dad back the money I owed him and invested in two new shops – one big warehouse in Ballymount and a store on the Malahide Road.

“The rest I invested in France with a view to eventually moving there and starting a holiday letting company. We built that up to about five properties, but then 2008 came along and everything went pear-shaped.”

When the recession hit, Kelly’s business was hit hard as household spending was decimated. He had to close his new outlets and sell the investment properties in France to stay afloat.

“France wasn’t hit as bad, so I got 95% of my money back, which basically propped up the company here for maybe the last 10 years. It got us out of the storm.”

He says that it was “just about survival” until 2014, when he decided it was finally time to do something new with the business he had acquired from his father.

“Being associated with the Des Kelly name was great during the recession, it kept people coming to us, but we needed to get away from it.

“So we started a rebranding and refurbishing plan, with a €250,000 investment focusing on our main retail unit in Sallynoggin.”

In 2015, Kelly renamed the business M. Kelly Interiors, signalling a shift away from his father’s retail empire. 

He opened a new store in Newbridge and moved distribution from the Sallynoggin store to a storage unit in Cookstown. This created extra retail space and allowed Kelly to fully refurbish the store.

“Before, carpets would have taken up a lot of space – we would have maybe had 200 or 300 rolls of carpet on the shop floor and by the end of the day it’d be a mess,” he says.

“But now we’ve changed it to a pure showroom, we’ve got samples of carpets instead and big new furniture displays. It’s made it an easier place to work and shop. ”

Family business

Kelly says there was a “big changeover” when his father Des died two years ago.

“It was a bit of a hit. I always had him as a crutch to talk to – he was really inventive and he always knew what to do.

“I was on my own but luckily I’d learned so much from him over the years. Stuff you’d never read in a book, it’s all from experience.”

Shares in the part of the business that was still owned by his father – Des Kelly Interiors – were left to all of Kelly’s siblings, while his younger brother Greg took over the running of that business.

While he is still a small shareholder in Des Kelly Interiors, Kelly says his own business is totally independent.

He adds there is key difference between the two businesses – Des Kelly Interiors sells a lot of low-priced furniture, while M. Kelly Interiors has more of a mixed offering.

M Kelly 001 Andres Poveda Andres Poveda

“They might sell a bed for a hundred quid, which I wouldn’t sell. Now I don’t want to be selling a couch for €4,000 either, because that’s a very limited market, but I’m in a good position in the middle.

“I also like to buy a lot of quirky pieces that create a bit of a buzz. We do the standard stuff like beds, three-piece suites, but we’ll always have something funky in the shop that nobody else would have.”

Kelly has also looked at developing other avenues of revenue rather than just selling inventory.

His stores also provide furniture rentals for film sets and advertising companies, and he employs an in-house interior designer and an upholsterer to provide additional services for customers.

Creating bespoke furniture is also a growing part of the business. Kelly says that it now represents about 15% of his trade and is an aspect of the operation that sets him apart from some of the other furniture retailers in the country.

“I suppose because we’re a small operation, not like the big lads, we can be more flexible and try new things,” he adds.

Moving forward

There are now three M. Kelly Interiors stores – Sallynoggin, Nutgrove and Newbridge – as well as the distribution centre in Cookstown. Between the these outlets, Kelly employs around 35 staff and 10 sub-contractors.

“The good thing about the staff is most of them have worked here for donkey’s years so they know the business,” he says.

“We’ve taken on a few new staff members in the last few years, but there’s one guy who’s started with me in Sallynoggin on the same day in 1986.”

Sallynoggin is still his main business, while the smaller Nutgrove store is also performing well.

However, Kelly says that sales have struggled in Newbridge and he is considering closing that store and opening a new outlet on the north side of Dublin instead, in an area such as Castleknock or Lucan.

Overall, Kelly says that the company on track for a profitable year – despite some weather-related challenges.

“The snow was a big hit. We were closed for three days and our vans couldn’t drive around, so I’d say we probably lost about €150,000 that particular week.” 

After a few turbulent years, he adds that finances are less of a worry and he can now firmly focus on the future.

“During the lean times we didn’t have a sausage. It was so tight for money that we were just focused on paying every bill, paying the next wages, keeping everybody happy. Now feck that, we can focus on making money again.”

This article is part of our weekly series examining the nuts and bolts of businesses. If you would like to see your company featured please email

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Written by Sarah Harford and posted on

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