IF&CR speaks to Olive Flynn, who along with husband Aidan runs the recently transformed Fingerboard service station in Tullamore
The intriguingly named Fingerboard forecourt on the Charleville Road Tullamore turns 70 next year – what a time to reinvent it.
Admired locally for its 99 ice-cream cones, it’s a store where everybody knows your name.
A former Esso site, it was one of the first to be transformed into a Topaz forecourt following last year’s acquisition. Its convenience store has also been newly refurbished into Flynn’s Centra, making it – according to Olive – the best one-stop-shop around.
“When it first opened, nearly 70 years ago, The Fingerboard was heated using an open fire that the locals would gather around for a chat in winter,” Olive said.
“Now we’ve officially reopened with a new shop, the fire is gone but in its place is an oven for cooking fresh pizza that’s made in-store daily.”
It’s just one of many adjustments made over the years as the shop went from a basic grocery store to a multifaceted, modern convenience outlet.
A huge array of items can be found inside, including groceries, deli, off-licence, fuel, car wash, gas, briquettes and of course those famous 99s.
The site was originally built by Kathleen and Michael Flynn in 1947, with generations of locals shopping there and often, more importantly, socialising there.
“Back then the family kitchen had an open-door policy and Michael had to make weekly trips to Dublin for supplies that couldn’t be sourced locally,” Olive said.
“The petrol pumps were installed in 1955 with the first delivery costing £200. A key selling point for the store has always been that it’s family-owned, and employs local staff who want to know their customers.
“The friendly staff are always willing to go that extra mile to make sure people have a pleasant shopping experience.”
For decades The Fingerboard has been a landmark at the crossroads leading from Tullamore to Killurin and Mucklagh. The unusual name originates from a hand-shaped signpost which once stood at that rural junction, one weather-beaten digit directing motorists to Kinnity.
Aidan Flynn took over the running of the shop in 1987 and the premises was extended in 1992.
However, the store made headline news in the Tullamore Tribune in 1999 when it ‘disappeared’ overnight. The old family home, which doubled as the shop, was knocked down after dark. By morning, its newly-built basement had turned into a temporary store, prompting the local paper to declare it was ‘Business as usual downstairs’.
This time the transformation has been more subtle yet still impressive, with a new Topaz canopy being the main feature.
Inside has also seen a complete revamp.
Among the new features is a fully-stocked off-licence, a larger deli that caters for all tastes, whether it’s breakfast rolls or a healthy snack, and a wider selection of fresh food.
“The decision to join forces with Centra is a significant move but one that has helped us to expand the range of products and offers available for customers,” Olive said.
“The Centra brand is Irish and has a reputation for quality, value and friendly service so fits perfectly with The Fingerboard’s history.
Aidan Flynn added: “It has always been a family store but in reality that includes the customers and staff who have crossed the threshold over the decades. They have brought real life and vibrancy to The Fingerboard so we want that to continue for years to come.”
Joining the Topaz brand was a big step for the Flynn’s, but it’s a decision they’re happy to have made.
“Topaz has a strong reputation across Ireland, and we felt their brand would be really attractive not only to our valued local customers, but also to passing trade,” Olive said.
“Their fuel card means we get a lot of fleet drivers and sales people, who tend to spend a bit more in-store.
“With our newly extended offer, it has allowed us to make the most of this new customer profile, so we’re sure we’ve made the right decision.”
Last year saw the Fingerboard add a number of key services to its already comprehensive offer.
Along with its instore revamp and rebranded Topaz fascia, it now features a new car wash, and a full off-licence, which opened in October.
“We’re very excited about the future,” Olive told IF&CR. “It’s been quite a year of transformation, but Topaz has been very helpful, and we’re confident about the future.”
With a refreshed site and expanded offer, there’s never been a better time to visit the Fingerboard. Don’t forget to try the 99s.