If Ballymena is the premier shopping town in Ulster then McKillens of Ballymena is undoubtedly its commercial heartbeat. This is a shoe shop which offers so much more. The store, which is found in Church Street in the town centre, has been there for almost 80 years, so its worth taking a look back at how it has become a symbol of excellence for the people of Ballymena.....and far beyond.
McKillens was opened in 1926 by the late Mr Thomas McKillen, a local farmer's son who had served his apprenticeship in the shoe and drapery trade, and rapidly gained a reputation for the expert fitting of quality ladies and men's footwear and excellent customer service. Over the years the business was the scene of continuous expansion, and Mr McKillens' only son, Matthew, linked up with his father in 1954 on completion of his education. This gave a true family orientation to the business, something that remains very evident to this day. In 1967 the company re-located to the other side of Church Street where it remains as a symbol of quality and reliability.
At that time Mr Thomas McKillen technically retired - passing the reins onto his son Matthew - and became honourary chairman. Nevertheless he remained active on the sales floor until shortly before his death at the age of 88.
His advice and guidance was always appreciated by his family and indeed is still missed today. Having graduated from university, Mr Matthew McKillens' two sons, David and Thomas, emphasised the family feel by joining the company in 1980 and 1984 respectively. Coupled with a faithful and appreciated team of staff members, many of whom have been with McKillens all their working lives (amounting to over 50 years service in some cases), this reassures customers who have come to rely on this friendly and expert family of traders for all their footwear needs.