Seamus and Dympna Hayes pictured at Music World in Athlone's Golden Island Shopping Centre on Monday. They are closing their store after 31 years in business in Athlone.
If you've lived in Athlone during the last 31 years then Music World is the place where you're most likely to have found the soundtrack to your life.
For people of this reporter's generation, the shop has always been there. Its trading locations changed over the years, but the business itself seemed as constant a local feature as the town bridge or the castle.
Then came last week's ad in the Westmeath Independent announcing that the couple behind the business, Seamus and Dympna Hayes, had decided, with regret, to bring down the curtain. A closing down sale is currently underway and the store will cease trading within days.
Unsurprisingly, the closure of this local institution came as a huge surprise to many.
"There were a couple of people who cried when we told them that we were closing down," said Seamus. "It is the end of an era."
The decision to close is not one that was taken lightly. Seamus recently had two hip replacement operations and similar surgery on his knee is planned. This fed into the couple's desire for a change and a chance to enjoy life more after 31 years of trading.
When asked about locals' reaction to news of the closure, Dympna replied: "You could see it in people's faces that they were shocked. One (regular customer) had me in tears last Thursday because he kept saying that he couldn't believe we were closing down.
"Then he left the shop and came back later with a plant for me. And he gave me a kiss and said thanks for putting up with him for all those years."
Both Seamus and Dympna are Athlone natives. He grew up on Mardyke Street while she hails from Ballykeeran. The Music World story began when Dympna secured a manager's job at a shop called Music Land, which was owned by Brian Finlay and was located in the old Athlone Shopping Centre.
"Brian Finlay had seven music shops at the time and he wanted to retire," recalled Dympna. "We decided to take a leap of faith and take over his shop in October 1981. We started running it ourselves as Music World. Brian, who has since passed away, was very good to us and gave us great help when we were starting out."
That original shop unit was located across from the Quinnsworth supermarket and managed to pack vinyl records, cassette tapes, guitars, guitar strings, radio cassettes, walkmans and more into a very compact space.
Video rentals started to become popular around the mid-80s and Music World soon opened up a video rental store just outside the shopping centre, while also moving its original shop into a bigger unit within the shopping centre.
"I liked the fact that we were working for ourselves," recalled Seamus. "You had to work all the hours that God gave you, and that's what happened, but it was great."
Another branch later opened on Church Street and this was where Music World sold tickets for big concerts in Dublin and elsewhere, through Ticketmaster, before the Golden Island Shopping Centre opened in 1997.
"We moved into Golden Island in 1997 and brought in the Ticketmaster sales with us, which really helped to bring people in. That period after we moved in here is probably the time when we were busiest. The Golden Island centre gave a real boost to the town," said Seamus.
They recalled massive demand for tickets to certain concerts. "There was an Oasis concert when we had the unit on Church Street and the queue went all the way down to the Strand. Then there was a U2 gig where people were queuing up outside the entrance to Golden Island and the queue snaked around past the cinema and nearly as far as Milestone Electric."
Other memorable occasions included in-store events featuring musicians and other celebrities such as Samantha Mumba, Brendan Grace, Des Bishop, The High Kings, Mick Denver, Tommy Fleming, and Olympic silver medallist Kenny Egan.
Seamus added that Christmas was always a great time of year.
"You'd always be very busy at Christmas but you'd have great craic with people at the same time. There was always a good bit of banter," he said. A former Athlone Town footballer and keen Manchester United fan, he would be slagged on a regular basis by fans of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Manchester City!
Over the years the business moved from stocking vinyl and cassettes to CDs and DVDs. Now, with increasing access to internet downloads and online shopping, the future of music retailing looks uncertain.
Seamus said internet shopping and downloads had some impact on his business but there was still a strong customer base which liked to purchase music in person.
"There's still people who like to pick up CDs, turn them over, and have a look at who did this and who did that. The move to online probably did have an impact and downloading music probably did as well. The younger set would be into that, but, generally speaking, there is still an older set who wouldn't be into it."
Dympna added that a lot of people would come into the store looking for 'back catalogue' items by certain artists, and if the album wasn't in stock they would always be willing to order it.
The couple wished to thank Alan Farrell, Mick Carey, and all of their staff over the years. Seamus and Dympna's two children, Elizabeth and Anthony, were also great help to them and had spells working in the store from their teenage years on. They are both currently based in London.
When this interview took place, on Monday afternoon, the amount of stock on the shelves was starting to reduce. The store will close for good this weekend. "The exact day we close will depend on the stock - we'll only be open while stocks last," said Seamus.
While they undoubtedly feel a sense of sadness about the closure, their move to retirement will also open up some new possibilities.
"We hope to have more time to enjoy life," said Seamus.
"I never thought we'd see 31 years in business, but we've had great customers over the years and we'd like to thank them for their loyalty and custom. All good things must come to an end and the road doesn't go on forever. It has to stop somewhere."