In the accompanying recording, Edgar Hunter talks about his family's shop in Markethill.

Photo of Edgar Hunter, 2003.

Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.

In the accompanying recording, Richard Hunter talks the family retail supermarket business,—its history and future directions.

Photo of Richard Hunter, 2013.

Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2013.

(The following article is by Mrs Helen Hunter.)

Think 1920.

The Olympic Games were held in Antwerp!
The manfacture and sale of alcohol were prohibited in U.S.A.!
Aston Villa beat Huddersfield 1- 0 in the first F.A. Cup Final since 1915!
And Mr Joseph Mallagh rented out his grocery shop in Markethill on a five-year lease to Joseph Davis Hunter, a young man who had worked for Martin, Nesbitt & Irwins in Newry for eight or nine years. The shop, which was at the front of what is now Bingham's Pharmacy, was about 20 feet by 20 feet - including storage.

There were already at least nine shops in Markethill selling groceries of one sort or another, so it was a highly competitive field for a new-comer. Doyle's was just across the street where the paint shop is now. Mrs Parkes' premises was on the site of the present newsagent's and Robinson's was opposite. Tughan's, Smyth's and Bingham's were further up Main Street. Mrs Luke and Mrs Adams had shops in Newry Street and Gibson's was on Fair Green Road nearly opposite the present Spar.

There were no frozen goods, no plastic bags, no crisps, no instant coffee, no detergents, no aerosols, no milk, very little fresh fruit, no sell-dates, no early closing days and no Environmental Health. Tea, sugar, biscuits, sweets, dried peas and beans, rice, barley, pipe tobacco and similar 'dry goods' were sold 'loose', that is not packaged, but scooped out of bins and drawers, or jute bags on the floor, weighed and filled into brown or white paper bags. Also on sale were pots of jam, tins of fruit and corned beef,pound packets of lard, salt bacon, paraffin oil and hurricane lamps, bars of Sunlight soap, tins of soft soap, cigarettes and plugs of chewing tobacco. Loaves, unsliced and unwrapped, came from Belfast daily- by rail - or every other day from Newry by horse -drawn cart.

There was one assistant in Hunter's, Jimmy Ewart, and it was 'open all hours' to man the one maghogany and brass till. Profit margins on most items were in fractions of an old penny.

When the lease ran out in 1925 Mr. Mallagh wanted to sell his property, so' J D.' secured a loan from Armagh County Council, built a shop and small store on the Newry Street side of the square and moved across early in 1926. A Model T Ford lorry, driven for a while by Bobby Bell and later by Hugh Adair, was bought to carry stone for the building.

A year or so later he added the two storey dwelling-house shown in the picture. The three storey building beside it was built a few years after that as a grass-seed store. All building was done by the Whiteside family, Kilbracks, helped by Thomas Adams, joiner.

Grass-seed and eggs were bought from farmers and re-sold to McCausland's in Belfast and Bradford's in Armagh. Fertilisers and animal feeding stuffs were brought from Belfast by train or lorry and sold to farmers, some of whom were poor beyond modern imaginings and often needed, and were given, a year's free credit until the crop was harvested or an animal sold.

In the early 1930s a horse and flat cart were bought to collect eggs and deliver meal. The driver was Joe Muldrew. The lorry, driven by Hugh Adair, carried groceries on weekly runs to country areas.

During the 1940s shopping hours were reduced, perhaps as a result of food rationing and black-out restrictions. Most shops closed from 1.00-2.00 pm and closed at 6.00 pm, except for an hour or two later on Saturday. Early closing on Wednesday was widespread.

From the mid-fifties onwards more and more families had cars and were no longer restricted to shopping in their nearest village. War-time rationing was finally over and people wanted more varieties of bread, fruit and vegetables. They wanted frozen foods. They wanted best quality and better packaging and 'good' prices. Above all they wanted CHOICE. To meet the competition Hunter's got chillers and freezers and a cold room.

In the 1960s the removal of the Recommended Retail Price Controls triggered fierce price wars among larger stores province-wide. Bulk buying was essential for survival, so Hunter's extended and extended and extended and built a large warehouse for storage, and for mixing and bagging animal feeding stuffs. By 1970, gradually and reluctantly, they accepted that they had to provide self-service facilities AND change to decimal money. The maghogany till was relegated to the office and the first check-outs were introduced -both of them.

The founder of the firm,' J.D.' died on May 6,1980, aged ninety one years, having been at work as usual the day before. By this time the business was trading as J.D.Hunter & Co and was about to become a member of the National Independent Supermarkets Association -N I S A -as denoted on the plastic shopping bags.

'Promotions' became the buzz word and it still is. Meanwhile, outside the shop, customer parking was becoming a problem. Inside, lack of space was creating difficulties. Aisles were narrow and irregular. Shelves were cramped. Access to the shop for both customers and goods was awkward. A final extension was needed. It involved taking down the dwelling house and the grass-seed store and rebuilding on the whole site-while still trading. This was a horrendous juggling match and a big financial risk. Not recommended.

Literally before the paint was dry the roof was blown off, the walls cracked and the contents destroyed by a bomb in August ,1991. A year or so later on a busy Friday morning, without warning, a mortar about a meter long came through the roof, cut through the vegetable shelves and dented the floor. We still thank God it didn't explode.

When the 16 September 1997 bomb went off at 6 minutes to noon it was dejas vu ----only worse. The shop was closed for 2 to 3 bleak, stressful months, edging into winter. Customers got used to shopping in the multiples. Would they ever come back???? Fortunately they did! They were wonderfully supportive and very patient. So were the staff. We are humbly and sincerely grateful to both.

Meanwhile, the parking problem grew and grew. It became a major inconvenience for customers and could no longer be ignored A new shop was built in 1999 on the old Spence/Bryson site. It opened on 11 November,1999, full time staff 48, part time 61. The rest you know. It's back to 'open all hours', fierce competition, narrow margins, no half-day closing and turning adversity to advantage........ The more things change the more they stay the same?

In September 2002 a Post Office counter was added replacing the Post Office in Main Street.

On 21 October 2002 an Off-licence was opened.