End of an era as Michael and Rita call time on ‘long and happy chapter’

Eight ‘Til Late was embraced by public from the beginning

Rita and Michael Oates

The end of an era is imminent in Roscommon Town with the news that landmark business ETL (formerly Eight ‘Til Late) is to close early next month.

The iconic building overlooking Main Street and The Square – familiar to generations of Roscommon families over the past 40 years – will now enter a new chapter in its existence.

Michael and Rita Oates, the popular proprietors of ETL, said they were announcing their plans to close the business “with heavy hearts” but are now looking forward to the next chapter in their lives.

They have thanked their loyal customers and staff for all their support over the past 40 years.

The couple said it had been a difficult decision to call time on what has been a “very long and happy chapter” in their lives.

Michael and Rita opened Eight ‘Til Late on the 29th of February 1984, in a beautiful building which had housed the Bank of Ireland. The doors will close on Saturday, 2nd of March next, bringing an end to 40 years of trading there.

Over those decades, Eight ‘Til Late (now ETL) has played a huge part in the commercial and social life of the county town. A prestigious national award won in the early days was one of many accolades which would be bestowed on the business over the years.

The store was embraced by the Roscommon public from the beginning, and went on to become a popular hub in the town, a premises with which thousands of people developed a special affinity over the decades.

Speaking to the Roscommon People this week, Rita Oates reflected: “We couldn’t have been luckier. We set up Eight ‘Til Late in this fabulous building in 1984 and we felt part of the community from the beginning”.

Eight ‘Til Late quickly became a popular hub in the town, with people calling in for their daily and weekly newspapers, gifts, cards and lotto tickets – not to mention the long, good-humoured queues for concert tickets!

The shop also branched into developing photographs and providing a professional framing service. As time passed, Eight ‘Til Late diversified further, stocking toys, CDs, books, then arts and crafts, including Rita’s own beautiful artwork, created in her studio in Roscommon. Just last year, Rita opened the Anam Gallery at the back of the store, reflecting her passion for art. Indeed Rita will continue to work as an artist.

Reflecting on the various phases over the years, Rita said: “We had to keep reinventing ourselves, which is what being self-employed can be all about. But that’s what makes you grow as a business, that’s what’s exciting”.

The couple found the interaction with the public to be a very fulfilling part of their journey.

“We got to know our customers so well… what newspapers they read, what books they liked. We loved the fact that they stayed and chatted when they called in. You’d see people coming in just to chat with Michael about the matches, that type of thing. Now, since we made the announcement, people have been popping in and chatting and reliving memories with us”.

For 20 years or so, Eight ‘Til Late was also their family home.

Rita: “We are so grateful to have had this wonderful property in the centre of town as our home for 20 years. It was an amazing place to live. This town gave us such a wonderful space, where our kids had access to schools and the GAA and so many other amenities. It gave us a safe place and we will always cherish that”.

Most of all, Rita says it was people who made Eight ‘Til Late/ETL the special place it became.

“Michael and I really want to say how grateful we are to our customers and staff. People were so loyal. It is the public who made this experience so so special. We can’t thank people enough for their support”.

They have been deeply touched by the outpouring of affection and warmth from people since their announcement.

It’s the public’s way of saying thank you back to Michael, Rita and family. Eight ‘Til Late has been in the heart of Roscommon Town for 40 years – and it has also been in the hearts of the people.