Five minutes with… Lila’s owner Mark Hawthorne

Lilas is a staple in the Armagh community. Located on Scotch Street, Lilas has been a family favourite for over 51 years!

Armagh I sat down with owner, Mark Hawthorne, to discuss the highs and lows of being a local business owner, and what he enjoys most in his free time.

Why did you choose being a as a career/business? 

I felt called to this career; my mum is Lila herself, who started the business in 1973. In the mid 90s, I felt called to come back home and help after the store’s extension. I lived in Belfast at the time and came back home and have been here ever since 1996, so almost 30 years now.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I am proud of the fact that I have had the pleasure of working with lots of lovely people, meeting lots of lovely customers and watching Lila’s grow throughout the years. It’s been lovely seeing how it has developed.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

For me, I get satisfaction out of helping people. Whether it’s through customers coming in looking outdoor footwear, who have been referred to come to us by podiatrists. People come in with awkward feet who think they will never find the right fit for them, I love people walking out the door and thinking, ‘Wow, I feel seen’.

What has been the biggest challenge in your job?

Biggest challenge would probably be that it is as hard now as it’s ever been in the world of retail. It has been a tough spring; the weather hasn’t been on our side and it doesn’t look like we’re getting a summer this year. I also stood and cried like a baby about two weeks into Covid thinking, ‘I worked here for 20 odd years and its all gone overnight’, which was definitely a challenge but we worked our way through.

I think local businesses play a huge part in our local community; if we all look after each other we all win, we’re all integral to how we work together. We build up relationships with others in the community and care for each other.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

A piece of advice my dad gave me, which he was given from the Minister one night, was ‘work as if you would live forever, but live as if you’ll die tomorrow’. So you have a good work ethic, but you treat people how you would want to be treated.

If you could choose anything else to do, what would it be?

I have always loved golf and football and would dream of a sporting career, if I wasn’t doing this. I used to play a lot more golf when I was younger, but then I got married and had kids so that halted. I’m also into music, I play the flute.

What do you think your best quality is?

I am quite a humble and content guy. I like listening and trying to find a solution to people’s problems. A lot of the time, customers come in not knowing what they want, but when you ask plenty of questions and listen to the answers, you start to figure out what they’re after. I’d also say I’m patient and enjoy the craic, I love the banter.

Name three things that you like doing outside of work.. 

I am active in my local church and work closely with young people in the church. I also play the flute; my wife is a music teacher so we’re quite a musical household. I enjoy playing golf whenever I can get away too. I love watching sport, I’m quite competitive so could watch any sport on TV, I almost coach them through the TV, I love the games that much. I also have three lovely girls who I spend the most time with.

What is your favourite food?

I love all food from all genres. It’s hard to beat a good steak with all the trimmings, or fish and chips from Ellen’s Chippy in Keady, it’s the best. Depending on the week, I enjoy Indian, Mai-Tai, or Mei-Garden.

What is your favourite book?

I’m not a reader. I took a book on holidays and read two chapters but I would much rather be active and doing something.

What are you currently watching?

Definitely the Euros at the moment, anything sporty I’ll watch. I occasionally watch Netflix, probably criminal minds. I like shows that I can drift in and out of so I can work on my phone whilst something plays in the background. The go to staple in our house is CSI on channel 21.

If you were to watch a band/singer live, who would it be?

Best band I have ever seen was Coldplay, they where class. I have a wide varied musical taste, one of the best musicians I have ever seen is Brian Finnegan, a local man from Armagh, he is one of the most amazing whistle and flute players you will ever hear.

Andrea Bocelli, I saw him and he was just incredible, we got tickets as a Christmas gift one year.

Someone I would love to see is U2, in the mid 90’s they where just amazing.

Dead or alive, who would you most want to meet and why?

I would need someone who is good fun, who would bring plenty of laughs, so I wouldn’t want anyone too serious. I would choose Jürgen Klopp, I’m a massive Liverpool fan. He is a guy who I think would have a great personality, seems quite down to earth and cares for people. He carries a lot of characteristics that I would like to have so I would like to go for a meal with him.

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