Text by Georgina Downes

Photography by Johanna Simon

John Fitzpatrick from Ballyheigue wanders into Celsius on Russell Street looking lost. He’s unaccustomed to shopping for clothes and he feels a bit out of his depth. “My wife’s bailed on for the day me and I’m forced to fend for myself.” He laughs.  That’s not a problem for proprietor John Murphy who takes Mr Fitzpatrick under his wing and guides him expertly around the shop until they find exactly what they’re looking for. A pair of chords, as it happens.


Trousers fitted, sale made, job done. Men are uncomplicated shoppers.

That’s the vibe in Celsius; straightforward, friendly, come on in. Even if it’s just for a chat, you’re welcome. You’ll find quality menswear, classic styles  and suits there too.

John Murphy is a gentleman through and through. Naturally, he is smartly dressed; sports jacket, dark shirt, handkerchief for emergencies. He manner is full of warmth and bonhomie as he ushers me to a table so I can write my notes.  He tells me he’s been in retail all his working life. He left school in the eighties and began working for Denis Moran’s, a shop long gone, but even back then, John  knew retail was where he wanted to be. He married Theresa, who managed A Ware for ten years and their combined wealth of experience made it almost inevitable that the Murphy’s would set up on their own.                                                                                 


Celsius first opened in 1997. Like many other businesses in town, it hit a rocky patch in 2010 and the Murphy’s took the decision to shut up shop. But through John’s resilience, popularity and hard work,  Celsius reopened in 2017 and the business is going from strength to strength. Despite the shop occupying two floors, John says he wouldn’t mind more space.  Good complaint.


John’s two sons, Frankie and Jay, work alongside their father. It’s Frankie whose opted to speak to me but he doesn’t want his photo taken because he not officially on duty today so he isn’t wearing his customary suit. Are clothes important to him?


“Oh, absolutely!” He answers enthusiastically. “I love the skinny jeans, blazer, no socks and loafer look.” Jay tells me he wouldn’t be seen dead with no socks. Frankie laughs. The brothers are like salt and pepper, he says.


Frankie smiles good humouredly throughout the interview. “I was always the talker in the class. At least here I can chat as much as I want to without getting into trouble.”  He tells me he loves his job, meeting different people every day. It shows. He is animated, full of energy, eager to help. A customer enters the shop and Frankie springs from behind the counter to assist Brandan, a young man from Tralee, who is looking for boots, specifically beige, suede ones.  He’s in luck because Frankie has just the thing. Brandan has brought his friend, Claire Foran, for a second opinion. What sort of clothes do you think look good on a man, I ask Claire.


“Jeans.  A good pair of shoes. I like a man in a suit. They look elegant and smart.” She says.


Listowel races is big business for Celsius. Over the years, the men have been giving the ladies a run for their money in the style stakes. Apparently, patterned shirts are in this season and ties are proving as popular as ever, but it’s not good news for the dickie bow; they’re out.


John is upstairs where they stock suits and formal wear. When he returns to the till to make a sale, it’s another ten minutes or so before we resume our conversation because he’s busy shooting the breeze.  He leans on the counter, listening attentively, making it clear he has nowhere else he needs to be and this elderly customer is the most important person in the world.


That’s the sort of service you get in this store; generous and unstinting.  John noticed Joanna, our photographer, admiring their wallets. “Here,” he says, as we gather ourselves to leave, and he puts one into her hands.  She is stunned and delighted in equal measure. “Would you like one?” He asks me but I decline, feeling he’s done enough. What an absolute gent.