Barbers, Car Dealers, Printers: The “Olympic” Small Businesses Around Ireland and the World, and How They’re Watching Rio

DUBLIN.  When Farrell O’Boy launched his Olympic Cars in Maynooth, Co. Kildare, he thought he’d chosen ‘a strong name, and people would remember it’, says Danny McCabe, today its sales manager.

Across the Irish Sea, Antonio Leto had emigrated from Sicily and worked as a barber when he set up his own shop, Olympic Barbers, in 1982.

‘He just wanted it to be an international barbershop—multinational, a barber for everyone‘, says his son, Ross, who now runs the shop, cutting hair in St Alban’s, north of London.unnamed (1)

For him, the Olympic name meant customers and hair from all countries were welcome.

Bernard Riley, a Brit from Kent, was starting a printing shopOlympic Print - window when he attended the 1968 Mexico City Olympics with his Mexican wife, Gilda—and ‘thought, I know what, I like the Olympic name,’ says Rob Gillison, now Olympic Print and Design’s creative director. 

For Mr Riley, the name meant the early days of his marriage.  For others, the Olympics meant strength.

Olympic Trailer Services - sign and staff group picture

‘The owner was looking for a strong company name,’ says Jessica Anderson, its finance manager.  ‘And as he was watching the Games on television, it came to him that “Olympic” was that strong name he was looking for,’ she said.

With ideals involving competition and fighting well, the world is dotted by businesses that found their name and inspiration in the Olympics.

 There is a ‘Hotel Olympic’ in Moscow; for that matter, there is also one in Burma, and one in Denmark. 

Ireland has 53 ‘Olympic’ businesses, from an Olympic Boats in Killiney, to an Olympic Scaffolding Services in Leixlip, all the way up to an Olympic Physical Therapy in Letterkenny and over to an Olympic Agencies in Salthill, Galway.

In the UK, Companies House lists 134 businesses with ‘Olympics’ in their name. 

They include Olympic Lifts in Lisburn, Olympic Shavers in Nottingham,  an Olympic Brewery in Cheshire, and an Olympic Horse Feeds founded last year in the West Midlands.

London’s Olympic Studio reopened as a cinema in 2013.  But its past dates to 1965 as Olympic Sound Studios, where the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles all came to record. 

In America, the Yellow Pages include 170 ‘Olympic’ businesses in New York, and 322 in California.  

It doesn’t stop there. 

Further afield, Bangladesh’s Olympic Industries makes biscuits, batteries, and biros.   Egypt’s Olympic Group produces refrigerators and ovens. 

 And Africa has Olympic Milk, a powdered and condensed milk in Nigeria, with a sporty branding and a partnership with Manchester City.

Olympic Competition, but in the Marketplace

So do the Olympics help these businesses? 

For Olympic Cars in Maynooth, the Olympics—or other large sporting events like the European football championship—aren’t actually good for their sales. 

People watch them, instead of going to buy automobiles.

‘It’s kind of a downer for us, we start to lose business,’ says Mr McCabe.

And a few weeks ago with Euro 2016, he said, his sales went down as potential customers spent money instead travelling to see the football. 

‘People don’t buy cars, they go abroad,’ he complains.

 Though he frequently sees Dubliners in his shop, venturing farther afield to get a deal, he says he never sees priests or seminarians. 

In his barbershop, Mr Leto keeps the Olympics on.

‘The television, with Sky sports—obviously during the Olympics I have it on,’ he says.  Any sport, in a barbershop, leads to conversation among his customers.

But chat and televised sport is now less of a draw than the free Wifi he brought in five years ago. 

‘The best thing I can have in the shop,’ he calls it, saying it brings in more customers than the television or magazines.

Olympic Barbers 1

But at Olympic Barbers, this year, the barbershop was shut for the Opening Ceremony. 

Mr Leto had gone to visit family near Palermo.

‘Maybe get some Sicilian barbering ideas to bring back,’ he joked.

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