Even if they're not in to buy on any given day, customers from over the years will always stop for a chat with Vivian (Brian retired two years ago) when on their way up or down the street. It's a social centre as much as a retail mens clothing emporium, and whether the subject is amateur drama, football, or whatever ... even, or especially, clothing ... there's always an excuse to do what now seems so difficult in a frenetic world, pass the time of day with a friend.
It was in the days when you could still talk to a bank manager at a local level, and with some money raised by a helpful Bank of Ireland, and 'a bit of cash put in my hand as a loan' by Vivian's late mother in law, Alice Coleman, they got the shop off the ground. "I think in total, we had £6,000 in capital to start us off."
They were also doing suits and slacks, smart knitwear, and even some footwear for a while, though they dropped that latter because of the sheer scale of stocks required. "As the business developed, we went into high quality stuff in shirts, and knitwear like Tricot Marine from Blarney Woollen Mills. We grew then with our customers as they grew older, and stayed with top brands although the brands themselves changed."
The top brands, such as Andre shirts, and eventually knitwear, were a deliberate choice, as Vivian and Brian were faced with competition from cheap imports in the bigger shops coming on-stream. "I wasn't prepared to stock the cheap stuff, as we couldn't compete there, and our customers knew that with us they were getting quality."
Over 30 years on the street, Vivian can recall a lot of changes even on his own stretch of frontage, a dry cleaners not there now, a record shop now gone under the might of the likes of HMV and later iTunes, and more. "There's a lot that's different, the kind of shops, the kind of customer, the competition from the likes of Whitewater and Penneys."
The Clarkes were fortunate in their choice of location, as further towards the bridge the retail footfall has all but disappeared. It was a process that started only a few years after the brothers had set up, when Dunnes Stores arrived in town. "There's now constant traffic between Penneys and Whitewater, and we're in the middle as people go by, so we'll often get new customers that way. But I can see the effects of the recession on people's ability to spend. The customers are still there, and they want to buy the quality, but they can't do as much of it."
It's a very personal business too, which means that Vivian is pretty well always there, six days a week, especially now that his brother has retired. "Brian always looked after the buying, and I looked after the shop and the window-dressing. He would go to Dublin every week to visit the wholesalers and see what was going on, and we were very much a complementary team. It's a bit harder without him, but that's the way of life." Still, looking back over the three decades, Vivian muses that their business choice gave them great freedom. "It allowed us to do things the way we wanted, a way we wouldn't have been able to do if we were employed by someone else."
While we're talking, a couple come in wondering if he sells men's footwear. Vivian apologises, and gives them very clear directions to a nearby store that will have what they want. He comes back and reaches into a briefcase, pulls out a faded copy of a feature article written when they opened the shop first. It began with the words 'For the Clarke brothers, Vivian and Brian, business is all about customer service'.
That's the ethic which keeps you in business for 30 years, through thick and thin. But you wonder whether there's a generation out there today willing to take such a long view for a small business career? "I don't know if I'd advise anyone to do it now. You have to serve your time in this business, you have to know it, and I don't know if there's any way for someone to learn the trade that way now."