John McCarthy of SPAR Rathcormac, starting his delivery rounds. (Photo: Ray Burns)

The local shop is often at the centre of towns and villages throughout Cork and during the current healthcare crisis, with many people restricted in how far they can travel, that local shop has become more important than ever. 

In Rathcormac, the local SPAR store has ‘stepped up,’ according to manager Ray Burns, making sure that local customers are provided for, as well as reaching out to more vulnerable and older people in the surrounding rural areas.

“The sense of community is very strong here in Rathcormac and people are very active in the community,” Ray explained.

“There was a feeling among the staff in SPAR that we could do more and we felt that we needed to step up,” he added.

Home deliveries

Making sure that people who were self-isolating were still able to access the bare necessities was an obvious move for the store management, however, it had never been a service that they were required to previously provide.

“Very occasionally one of us would have made deliveries for someone older maybe, who wasn’t able to make the journey, but a proper delivery system was a new venture for us, it was something that we hadn’t done before,” Ray told The Avondhu.

Introducing free deliveries for shopping worth over €40 has provided another option to people in Rathcormac and the surrounding areas.

Continuing, Ray remarked that they have noticed a gradual increase in demand for shopping to be delivered. “It was slow in the beginning, but it certainly has been building week on week,” he said, adding that a lot of this growth has been down to word of mouth.

While local deliveries account for some of the journeys undertaken, a larger number of requests have been coming in from further afield as well.

“We have had people getting in touch from Bartlemy and Glenville. A lot of people in some rural areas are asking for deliveries now. We will bring it to the front door if that’s what people need,” Ray said, before noting that Eircode has become an essential aspect of the delivery.


The Government has asked that people aged over 70 stay at home. This request has meant that many older people are isolated and regular trips to the shop are no longer permitted.

For some of these individuals, SPAR’s delivery service is providing an important lifeline.

Remarking on this, Ray said: “Some people are very private and their shop is their own business. They prefer to keep within certain parameters.”

Staff in the Rathcormac store know a lot of their customers and carrying out their shop for them and delivering it can ensure that privacy for the customer is maintained. For many, it is a question of trust and confidence.

“We have a lot of well-known characters who would have been coming in and out quite a lot, and now with the restrictions, they can’t. And we miss them in the place, we look forward to seeing everyone again,” he said.


While some customers may no longer be making their way through the shop, the store’s staff are as busy as ever.

“I’m not overstating this, but we have a really great compliment of staff. It really does make all the difference,” Ray commented.

In many shops, especially in the larger multiples, there were some issues in the early weeks of the pandemic, making sure that there was sufficient staff. Understandably some workers had concerns about being on the shop floor.

However, Ray acknowledged that this was not a major issue in Rathcormac, saying: “We have had full rosters and there hasn’t been a staffing issue. Everyone has been so good over the last couple of weeks in particular and everyone has been willing to help out how they can.”


“These are challenging times, without a doubt, but none of this is insurmountable,” Ray said, reflecting on the current situation.

Responding to whether SPAR in Rathcormac has had to adapt to the realities of Covid-19, he admitted there were some changes.

“Of course we had to put in the plexiglass screens at the checkout and staff have the option of wearing protective gear if they want to. We have only had to limit the number of people in the shop a handful of times,” he said, noting that customers have been ‘very good’ and very responsible.

Yet another local business stepping up to the mark in these challenging times.