Two Dunfanaghy based women have re-opened the first business in the old Dunfanaghy Market House in almost four decades years.
Fittingly “Revive” is a furniture restoration and craft business founded by Tonita Askin and Kathy Dunn.
They opened their doors for the first time last summer and are currently busy getting ready for the forthcoming tourist season.
Kathy and Tonita are passionate about breathing new life into old furniture and they have set up shop in what was the old “Singing Kettle” cafe, which famously was known as a place that closed for lunch in the past.
The pair have vastly different employment backgrounds. Kathy was an accountant while Tonita has a background in fine art and sculpture.
Together they founded the upcycling shop to help create self employment that would help facilitate flexibility in their family lives.
“This is the first business in here in 39 years. The last one was the Singing Kettle. When we first opened all the older people would come in with all different stories about the place when it was last open. We have kept things like the original counter and things like that, ” Tonita explains.
The business combines their skills in craft, design, furniture restoration and upholstery to rediscover the beauty in old furniture.
As well as selling furniture restored and refurbished in their workshop Revive’ also sells a variety of smaller home craft items, as well as bric-a-brac. They will also undertake bespoke furniture refurbishment commissions on individual pieces.
Kathy explains they started the business on the grand budget of just €40.
“We started by doing local craft fairs last Christmas. They we just continued by working on bits and pieces people gave us. Our first load of stuff came from a local pub that was being refurbished and we began working on it in the shed. We then moved on to the local farmers market after initially planning to have a pop up shop in the Oznam Centre and that created some interest in what we were doing. There was a great buzz around that which was lovely. The we contacted the committee of the Market House and that is how we got started here.”
She laughs: “We started with €40. That’s all we had. When we opened up we spent it on paint and sandpaper.”
Kathy says she initially wished to open a curio shop in the village and they struck upon the idea to being something they could fit around their family lives.
Always keen to receive unwanted pieces of furniture either through house clearance sales or donations, the due are currently hard at work preparing for the forthcoming summer season, which see thousands of visitors flock to the seaside village.
The Revive’ team are also keen to share their passion for old furniture revival techniques by hosting introductory classes during the autumn and winter months.
Though hard work, creativity and experimentation they can turn what many may have considered something for the scrap heap into beautiful home furnishing with a unique twist.
“Between the two of us we’re not afraid to do stuff and if it doesn’t work out we just fix it. We’ll just try things and see how they work out, ” Tonita explains.
People love the fact that the building is open. A lot of people would have even realised the building was here really as it was used so little, even though it was hear all along. It brings a buzz back into the town, ” she added.
They are currently open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and are spending the rest of their time busy in their workshop preparing new stock.
Another string to their bow has been running weekend courses where people can bring items to repair or up cycle and can are fun social events that show what is possible with items that have lost their sparkle.
“We do the courses, one a moth at the minute. That last Saturday of every month. We call them Breath life into your old furniture’ and people can bring their own furniture and we help them to do what ever it is they want to do to it. That’s for six people in a six hour workshop and we include lunch and all the materials, ” they added. Many people bring smaller items to work on such as chairs and stools or cabinets.
“It has been hard work but getting the first year by us will show us where we need to build and put the bulk of work in. We will be a bit more prepared and know more of what to expect and get a bit ahead of ourselves. We threw ourselves in at the deep end last year but that have been the best way to do it, ” says Tonita.
Cathy adds: “We didn’t think it was going to be so well received. I think we thought the stock we had built up would have lasted us all summer long but it lasted about two weeks.
The Market House dates back to 1845 when it was established by The Stewarts of Ards as a market place for the sale of local goods.