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Joe McKenna's on Parnell Street, Limerick sells hardware and tools and was established in 1979. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick Joe McKenna's on Parnell Street, Limerick sells hardware and tools and was established in 1979. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

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WATCH Over four decades of expertise, adaptability, and loyalty solidify Joe McKenna’s as a Limerick institution

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Joe McKenna’s on Parnell Street, Limerick sells hardware and tools and was established in 1979. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Joe McKenna’s celebrate over 45 years of hardware expertise

Joe McKenna Senior and Joe McKenna Junior have seen their premises on Parnell Street evolve over more than four decades. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Celebrating more than four decades of service and expertise for craftsmen and DIY enthusiasts in Limerick, Joe McKenna’s Hardware store is a testament to resilience, evolution, and commitment to quality.

Established in 1979 by Joe and Miriam McKenna as a humble one-man tool-selling company, the store has become a beacon of excellence in the industry which has clients coming back for generations.

Joe McKenna explained to I Love Limerick he first set out working for Denis Coakley’s on the Dock Road in 1970 where he spent six or seven years working in the hardware and fertiliser business.


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“Then, I decided to go on my own,” said Mr McKenna, he continued, “I started working from a garage at my house for the first two years, and then I bought a shop on Parnell Street here, which was a small shop at the time, but that’s where we started from.”

Becoming an entrepreneur is a big decision, and Joe McKenna who was playing hurling for Limerick at the time noted he was “very busy with one thing or another” when he made the decision.

“I just decided to do it, I wanted to do it. I always wanted to work on my own, and sometimes you do things and don’t really think about it, but those days were different, it was probably easier to do it then,” said Joe.

Located on Parnell St in Limerick as it has since 1979, the original retail premises remains the beating heart of Joe McKenna’s operations. Although the location has remained the same, the surroundings have changed, and the store has expanded and adapted as almost 45 years of business would call for.

“At the time it was a much-smaller street, small as in tighter, before the council changed the street. It is also the same street as the railway station, so there’s always going to be business there, and that hasn’t changed. So that’s where it started, we have expanded by buying different units behind us, there was a public house called Ma Reilly’s beside us, we bought that and extended into there. That’s where we are at today.”

Joe McKenna Junior explained, “It was 2004 when it was expanded, JP McManus cut the ribbon, so that was a big day you know, the street was flooded with people.

“All I remember is this business, this shop changing throughout the years. When it started here it was just one small unit but over time he kind of bought out bit by bit the units around it. Since 2004 now it’s been like this.”

From its inception, Joe McKenna’s has focused on supplying top-branded hand and power tools, catering to both craftsmen and DIY enthusiasts. The business reached a pivotal milestone in May of 2004 when an expanded store was unveiled, broadening the company’s horizons as well as the products they offer.

Joe McKenna's staff ar "number one" and some have been with the company for more than 30 years. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick
Joe McKenna’s staff are “number one” and some have been with the company for almost 40 years. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Setting up at first the store was providing “hand tools and power tools at the time” but he explained how “it evolved into wood-turning, there’s a niche market there. We supply to builders, schools, colleges, factories and much more across the whole country. All that helps and it grows and grows.”

Things have been changing rapidly in businesses all around the world where a focus is on more than just the bricks and mortar store, and Joe explained, “It’s a different ballgame. You have online, Instagram, web stores, and so on. We have to adapt, we are trying to adapt, and we are adapting. At that time, I don’t know, they’re could have been over 20 hardware stores and they are gone but we are still here.”

For those who come to Joe McKenna’s for their DIY and tool needs, they can quickly tell it is not just a business; it’s a legacy shaped by the dedication of its team. The staff speak highly of Joe McKenna who equally speaks words of admiration for his staff.

He told I Love Limerick, “We have a very good staff, number one, and they’re with me a long-long time, some are with me over 30 years, and they’re very experienced which keeps people coming back. If a customer gets good service and is treated properly, they’ll come back. When your staff are with you a long time, that’s a sure sign.”

“The staff enjoy coming in here, they enjoy the banter,” he explained, “I think just treating people right, be fair with them. It’s a two-way street and everybody’s got to work. But if you look after them, they’ll look after you. I’ve always been lucky with staff, we’ve always had good staff.”

In more than 40 years of business, Joe McKenna Hardware has seen it all, the pandemic, numerous recessions, and the housing market crash in the 2000s, this has also led to changes in the company with Mr McKenna explaining “in the crash everything stopped, but we persevered”. The growth of hobbyists over the years has helped. Customers travel from all over, by bus and train, to purchase machinery for woodturning and DIY projects, and to see our extensive offering on Parnell st.

Customer loyalty is something every business relies on, but intergenerational loyalty is something most dream of, and Joe McKenna told I Love Limerick, “I have customers coming in and I dealt with their grandfathers. After the All-Ireland this year, a man from Kilkenny approached me in the Hogan Stand, congratulated me on the win, and told me that he and his father before him enjoyed visiting my shop, and this man was no spring chicken, and it’s great to hear that.”

“It’s great, you have people coming back who say what their name was, they’ll say ‘my father was in here’ and you’ll remember these guys coming in over time, and having the younger people coming in means we are doing something right.”

As a former Limerick hurler, Joe McKenna spoke about how the current team has “given the county a lift” when asked about the store’s prime location close to Colbert Station where the Liam McCarthy Cup had passed through after All-Ireland wins.

Joe Junior said, “Dad was a hurler, as most people in Limerick would know and stayed heavily involved in hurling ever since.”

When asked about the four-in-a-row winning team, Joe said “Lets enjoy number four and we’ll take it from there”.

Looking to the future, Joe said jokingly, “I won’t be worrying about it in 45 year’s time. It will evolve again, changes are so rapid now. You try to go with it, but you’re dealing with so many people you can see changes are coming and you just go abreast with it.”

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Joe McKenna’s on Parnell Street, Limerick sells hardware and tools and was established in 1979. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.