One of the longest established shops on Oliver Plunkett Street is Uneeda Bookshop. John Coffey has been running the shop for fifty years — originally at no. 66 for twenty-five years before settling at his new location at No. 71 Oliver Plunkett Street. The shop sells second-hand books, CDs, casettes, vinyl records, and DVDs. Today John is helped in running the shop by a daughter and grandson of his.
John reflects with glee at the old days when his shop started. He said that, back then, people read more, and his bookstore was a thriving. "Those were great days. I would open the shop at nine in the morning and it would be open until nine in the evening. Back then I was running four book shops and a restaurant. I had shops at 66 and 103 Oliver Plunkett Street, MacCurtain Street, and one in Daunt’s Square. There was a lot more people interested in reading in those days. Nowadays young people don't seem to have time to read anymore."
John says he has had the same regular customers calling into Uneeda for years, often swapping items — or doing a deal with them, such as, selling a book to them for €1 or €2 and buying it back from them at half price when they were finished with it. John built up a valuable collection of records in every genre throughout the years, and all from his own customers that come into the shop. He suggests that you could not start a business like this nowadays.
While interviewing John for this webpage, one of his regular callers remarked that Uneeda provides a service for the city that no one else provides. John provides second-hand books at a fraction of the cost of new books charged by high-street retailers. Trading in Cork for years, John commented on the wit of people that call to the shop. He said, "In Cork you can never ride your horse too high. One day when I was in the shop, an elderly couple approached and looked in the window. They were squinting in when the woman remarked, ‘Is he still alive!'."
Reflecting on the business today, John commented that these are very tough times, and added that the new successful business in Ireland is the one that is merely paying its way: "Recently I was talking to another trader up the street and when I asked him how was business he replied, ‘I’m just keeping my head under[!] water.’ That's a sign of how difficult things are today". John noted too that he is also facing stiff competition from the increasing number of charity shops stocking second-hand books. Additional factors to contend with are cheap online sales of books and the increased use of e-readers. He refers to a book in the window, A game fisher in Ireland, which he is selling for €10: "One of my regular customers was going to buy it but while he was here he checked online and saw it selling for 99c". Despite these changes, there is still a market for the experience of coming into Uneeda, searching through a large collection and immediately acquiring a book or record.
Aside from the recent difficult environment for all retailers John said that Oliver Plunkett Street is a great street to trade in: "People look in Patrick Street, but they buy in Oliver Plunkett Street. It is the home of the local Cork and family-run businesses as opposed to the big multinational stores". Uneeda is one of these local businesses on Oliver Plunkett Street that is rooted in the history and traditions of Cork.