Kennys Bookshop

75 Years of Bookselling

Kennys Bookshop in Galway, Ireland, is celebrating 75 years of putting books in people's hands. First, let's begin with the key numbers associated with this business - 18 staff (including eight from Kenny family) and 650,000 new, used and rare books for sale.

The business began with Maureen Canning and Des Kenny meeting, falling in love, marrying and deciding that a bookshop seemed like a good idea. They leased the ground floor of a building on Galway's high street, borrowed £100 to acquire stock and opened for business on 29 November 1940.

Desmond Kenny in the first bookshop

It was not easy. Des had to work elsewhere to bring in cash. They sold tobacco and also used book stalls around town. By the 1950s, they branched into art shows and were printing their own catalogues in order to win customers from out of town.

Gradually, the business grew. Bigger authors began to visit. Media coverage grew. Stock improved. Kennys' devotion to Irish literature was an important factor in establishing their reputation.

Kennys Art Gallery

By the mid-1960s, they opened the first commercial art gallery in the west of Ireland and a book bindery was added in the 1970s. The 1980s saw the business branch into publishing and the Library of Congress appointed Kennys as their supplier of Irish books.

Kennys Bookshop in 1990s

Graham Greene, Roald Dahl, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Maeve Binchy, Derek Walcott, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee and Allen Ginsberg have all been visitors over the years. There's a good chance that you will see someone notable while visiting and there will probably be a TV crew too if you linger long enough.

The 1990s saw Kennys embrace the Internet and become one of the first book businesses to reach customers around the globe via digital means.

Online orders being shipped

"Several years ago, we realised we were selling more books online than on the high street, so we decided to move about a mile away to a large industrial building," Tom Kenny, son of founders Des and Maureen, told the Irish Times earlier this year. "Today, online sales account for 80 per cent of sales but we also retail books and have done a great deal to retain as much of the atmosphere and we still host book launches and readings."

Thousands of books waiting to be sold

"Kennys are dedicated to the culture of the book. For us, books are far more than a commodity; we help to make the vital connection between writer and reader many times every day. We constantly promote and market writers, particularly in the early stages of their careers. Three members of staff are third-generation family, and they, like their grandparents, strive to make Kennys Bookshop a world of its own, and a key to worlds unknown."