The faces and shops that give Cavehill Road a village feel

Cavehill Road is located at the foot of Cave Hill to the north of town, and benefits from being so close to this magnificent mountain and the many visitors it attracts.

Along this route are businesses ranging from cafes to hairdressers, old and new, most of them made up of local people integrated into their community.

The businesses along Cavehill Road know their customers so well, many of them first name, that it creates a real family atmosphere.

On a sunny September afternoon, Belfast Live took to the road and chatted with the companies that make this region so unique.

Paul Carlin has been the head of Carlin Hair for seven years and has said he sees Cavehill Road more like a village.

Paul Carlin from Carlin Hair

He said: “For a local economy it’s going very well, you have brilliant offers, there are a lot of different stores, which means it has a kind of village mentality in my opinion.

“I think because we have parks at both ends, there are a lot of good schools here, so that leads to a very family-friendly outdoor community, which is really lovely. The community is using the area really well.”

When it comes to people living in this area, Paul says most are very businesslike, positive, and into their outdoor activities.

“I’m completely biased – I think we’re the best part of town,” he laughed.

“We find that in the living room, when people leave the country, they come to this part of North Belfast because of the beauty of Cavehill, which seems to bring a really healthy and outward-looking kind of life.

“To a certain extent North Belfast had to get rid of everything it had. I think this is a very real area, we don’t want people to lose course on themselves.”

The Bluebell Bakery & Cafe is a staple on the road, with owner Kiera McGuinness opening the doors 11 years ago and keeping spirits up with her sugary treats ever since.

Aimee Doherty, Kiera McGuinness (owner) and Jennifer Boyle at Bluebell Bakery & Cafe

She told us about the great outdoors of the people of the Cavehill area and the importance she places on their custom every day.

“It’s a small, busy area, and it’s just getting busier and busier,” Kiera said.

“The people here are very loyal, they will come every day and buy a Belfast bap but they will come back here every day and not go anywhere else.

“When the lockdown happened I closed for six weeks and when I reopened I was really worried about the business. But people would come in and thank me for the opening, which was really overwhelming.

“Then the people who came in would give me maybe an extra pound as a tip for the girls. the time would come and be worried and so happy for you to continue. “

Known locally by its old name, The Choc Box, Today’s Express Newsstand is a mainstay of Cavehill Road – keeping customers stocked daily with essentials over the years.

The boutique has been a staple on the road for 17 years

But for owner Robert, who has been behind the counter for 17 years, the best thing about the locals is that they’re always up for a joke.

He said: “Everyone gets along with everyone, everyone knows each other by name. The people here are going to laugh with you, they all have a great sense of humor.

“You also know where you are with the locals – they’ll tell you what they think about it. It’s a great road, people really love each other.”

Ben Madigan’s Bar & Kitchen is one of the newest additions to Cavehill Road. It opened in November 2019, but since then it has become very popular with locals.

Kelvin Collins, Ben Madigans Bar & Kitchen

Owner Kelvin Collins said opening up here gave him the chance to fully integrate into the community.

He said: “The first few moments we opened we were welcomed by the community and we really feel part of the community. I live a mile and a half from the road, and have always been a part of the community. a little more remote and I’m never really integrated into it. But since we opened here you get to know faces, you get to know customers – it’s also a lot of loyal customers. nice to work.

“Everyone knows everyone – it’s a community atmosphere. When we started we did a Christmas carol here and people said they had seen neighbors they had not seen since. years because they can have a place to socialize now.

“If you go to other parts of Belfast there might be more of a passing community – but people have lived here their entire lives, they grew up here and their families grew up here, and it’s beautiful to see that.

“You have parents and grandparents, even celebrations in our reception hall. People are dying for some reason to go out again now. Even with the covid restrictions, with table service, people are just happy. to hang out with each other again and we’re happy to give them a place to meet. “

At the top of the road is the Spar, which was taken over by Norman Porter 40 years ago and is now owned by his daughter, Jenny Reilly.

Norman Porter and Jenny Reilly at Spar on Cavehill Road

They say that despite the area being good for families, there is often little to do and a lack of common thinking when it comes to new developments on the road.

Norman said: “It’s a great neighborhood to live in. It’s funny that there are very few amenities for people in the neighborhood as you go to other neighborhoods and there are more. to do.

“If there were more here, it could reduce incidents of antisocial behavior.”

Jenny added: “There has to be a more common thinking when it comes to Cavehill – seeing it as a village instead of a road.”

The Spar has been in the area through good and bad times, and familiar faces and welcoming conversation have always been at the heart of the Cavehill Road shopping experience.

Norman said: “We have a little older woman who comes in all the time. At the start of it all, she would come in and I was having a chat with her and she said ‘Hope you don’t mind that I come home, c ‘is the only contact I have.’ “

“At the start of covid, with all of our staff, none of them complained,” Jenny continued. “Everyone introduced themselves, they continued, which sums up the people of this region.

“One of the things that customers liked during covid was seeing familiar faces. It was a bit of normalcy rather than all that weirdness that everyone encountered throughout the pandemic.

“You can’t go here, or do that, and everyone wears masks – whereas if you came to Spar we were exactly the same, nothing here has really changed except the markings on the ground and screens at the cash desks.

“People are generally nice in this neighborhood. We see the same people all the time, there are very few that we don’t know, and you know everyone by name, which is lovely too.”

About Lucille Thompson

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