Alan and Declan Maher of Barrow Valley Spares, the first Powered By Kramp Store in Ireland, were told they had to close due to Covid restriction less than 6 months after launching. In spite of this, they have managed to win Agriculture Product Retailer of the Year at the 20/21 Corporate Ireland Prestige Awards. We asked them to talk about their experience.
To understand what’s it been like running an agricultural store in these past 15 months I must go back to the start. First established in 2014 BVS Parts, as a company, fitted on one neat pallet with a stacker riser. That was it, that was the entire company. . I purchased a hydraulic hose crimper, two of all common BSP fittings and 400ft of hydraulic hose. I was working out of a 400sqft shed where we also sold and repaired garden equipment to make some profit. I was joined a few months later by my brother Declan to help manage the business side of things while I focused on repairs and machinery. By taking an interest in our customers and getting involved in our local agricultural community, we soon learned that there was space to do more, so we set out to look into ways to expand our business.
Our goal from the very beginning was to help farmers, address all the needs that they expressed to us when talking to us. We made it our business to ask the questions and find out how we could help more. This was clearly appreciated and it caused the business to snow ball. We were being asked for oil, filters, clutches, tillage parts, lights etc. Really our motto was to never say no when asked if we could get something and over time it really paid off. After the first year we were starting to run out of space so we decided to move into our current location, a unit in Athy behind Laois Hire and set up there.
Now that we had the space, and we knew what farmers in the area were looking for, we decided we would open a shop where they could get virtually any part for any machine at a really competitive price. We had a good look around Europe and we came across Kramp, which offers the largest choice of agricultural spare parts and equipment in the continent. We approached them about opening a store here in Athy. They are the largest parts distributors and cater to several industries so we knew we were in good hands. That is how we opened Ireland’s first Powered by Kramp store, which means we can offer an in-store selection aimed at addressing the needs of our local farmers while also being able to offer virtually anything else to anyone who approaches us, either online, on the phone or in store. Of course taking on a whole shop was such a huge undertaking for us and we had to get up to speed pretty quickly with the change in business – imagine going from operating from a little shed to dealing with farmers and contractors from all over Ireland! But we stayed on top of it all and everything was starting to take shape, until of course COVID-19 hit.
As you can imagine after having just expanded your business the last thing you’d want to hear is that you have to close up shop. It’s hard to explain how huge a disappointment that was. However we knew we were protecting our customers and we were lucky that we were still able to take orders on the phone and online – we offer direct delivery through Kramp and click and collect, which served us (and our customers!) really well. However it’s never the same as a person walking around your store. We also had to navigate guidelines on essential retail that we personally didn’t always find straightforward for a business like ours. We are now beginning to leave all that behind us and recently we had a soft reopening of the store, which was great – especially because we got loads of comments such as “I never knew a shop like this existed in Athy”, or “Congratulations, it’s great to see to local lads trying to make a go of it!”, “How long has this been here?”, etc. When you tell them it’s been nearly 18 months they can’t believe it. It fills us with pride to get such positive response from everyone who visits – hopefully it means we must be doing something right!
We can’t wait to reopen fully and properly and hopefully without any more closures. I personally look forward to be able to fully interact with my customers again, to shake their hand (guidelines permitting) and say “Welcome! It’s great to see you out again”. It’s something I think everyone is really looking forward to.
Even more than that, I am actually looking forward to being able to help people again. It makes such a difference waking up in the morning knowing you’ll be able to make someone’s life easier, it’s a great motivation to us. I remember last year during the Summer reopening we had a local customer with two New Holland combines who told us thanks to our shop he was able to save almost €3,000 on combine parts alone without taking into account the balers or tillage parts. This sort of thing, knowing that we are running a business that helps farmers by offering them top quality parts at affordable prices is one of the best parts of the job. Every day is a learning day and no two days are the same. Offering everything from chains, links, alternators, clutches, filters, tools, lights, starters, engine parts, clothes, DIY products, electrical parts, grass, harvest, slurry, toys, linkage parts… you name it! You simply never know what you are going to be asked for or asked to get, and it is our mission and our pleasure to make sure every farmer who deals with us leaves with exactly what they need, without exception. That’s what being a successful agricultural business means to us.
Alan and Declan Maher, winners of Agriculture Product Retailer of the Year, 20/21 Corporate Ireland Prestige Awards