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Standún was founded in 1946 by May and Máirtín Standún and has been a landmark in Spiddal, Connemara, Co. Galway ever since.
A love story begins...
In the early 40's Máirtín an Irish speaking man from Liverpool, England and May a music teacher from Mullingar fell in love. Their first meeting, however was not a normal rendevous at the local dance but occurred while both were interned in the Ireland of the 1930's - Máirtín Standún in the Curragh and May Mulready , one of the first women ever interned in Mountjoy Prison. While in prison, Máirtín met the Irish scholar and writer, Máirtín O'Cadhain from Spiddal in Connemara who had a major influence on him instilling in him a passionate love for the Irish language and culture. On release from prison this interest in things Irish continued to grow and when Máirtín and May came across a small drapery shop in Spiddal for sale while on a cycling holiday in Connemara, their destiny was sealed..
Nine hundred pounds, however was a lot of money in those days for any young couple and especially from the meagre wages they earned, Mairtin as a grocer's assistant and May a part-time teacher. However, fired by enthusiasm and determination and an ardent desire to live in the Irish Speaking Gaeltacht, the young couple saved every penny they earned and in 1946 Máirtín and May Standún bought the tiny galvanised shop cum house on the outskirts of the village of Spiddal. Thus were the humble beginnings of Standún, now one of the best known and most respected fashion, gift and craft outlets in the West of Ireland.
15 hour working day....
Just as Máirtín and May's first meeting was no ordinary encounter, neither were their lives in Spiddal. From the very outset their business and social lives were uniquely interlinked with the local community and with the culture and traditions of the Connemara Gaeltacht. Like all struggling business people of their time, they worked a fifteen hour day building their business from the tiny shop in 1946 to an all purpose store within a few years selling everything from groceries, clothes, footwear, furniture, bedding and bicycles to cement and other building materials.
People travelled from all over Connemara and further afield to shop at Standún, some travelling by bus and others many miles on turf lorries. Standún became the meeting place for people and Standún’s delivery van which was also the family car became the hearse for the area. Giving credit was essential in post-war days and this facility continued to be part of the business ethic of Standún for many years. Máirtín was later to comment that the people never let him down and always paid their bills. In the 1960's at the instigation of Córas Tráchtála, Standún set up a finishing factory for Aran sweaters which was to become a most important aspect of Standún's business, particularly as the tourist industry began to grow and develop in the 1970's. The unfinished Aran sweaters with their varied and individual patterns - cable stitch representing fishermens ropes, trellis representing stone walls between fields - were collected from home knitters all around the country and brought to the factory for finishing.
To this day you could talk with women from Donegal to Kerry and anywhere in between who depended on Standún for the very necessary supplement to their household income derived from hand knittied Irish Aran sweaters. Standún was one of the most significant employers in the area. At one stage there were over 700 knitters on their books. Standún became the first store in Ireland to export the Aran Sweater to large department stores in the US such as Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor.
The Second Generation...
In 1972 Donal, May and Máirtín’s son took over the business. The business continued to serve the local people with a grocery store, ice-cream parlour, general household goods, a butchers, petrol pumps and undertakers all under one roof. Standún also continued to employ knitters around the country and the pieces were assembled in the store in Spiddal. In 1983 Donal and his wife Raymonde decided to focus Standún more on the tourist market as there were more and more tourists visiting Ireland at this time. Standún became a landmark in Connemara for great value knitwear and good quality Irish products.
Export to the US remained strong and Standún was recommended in many guidebooks such as Frommers and Fodors as well as winning the Wall Street Journal Award for the best place to buy an Aran Sweater online.
Standún is now managed by Máirtín and May's grand-daughter Clíona and it very much reflects all that is best in Irish and International produce marrying the traditional and contemporary to stunning effect. Standún is also highly commended by the top European and US tour guides.
Watch Standún starring on National Television in 2010
RTÉ Feargal Quinn Retail Therapy
Watch Standún starring on National Television in 2013
RTÉ Nationwide with Mary Kennedy