Kelly Cheung - on gratitude and running

Kelly Cheung, manager and co-owner of Amphibian King

Generating positive social media comments

COVID19 has generated a conversation on what we understand to be essential businesses. There are obvious ones such as grocery shops and pharmacies, but retail shops generally came under the non-essential category.  Even retail shops selling exercise equipment – supplies of which are even more important in this lockdown. Amphibian King is such an outlet; a well-known running shoe specialist shop, it has outlets in both Bray and Ballymount in South Dublin.

The business was set up by Kelly and her husband Damien 14 years ago in Bray and it sells runners and running accessories. Its speciality is that it provides gait analysis for its customers. This is very important as everyone moves in different ways and this initial assessment can guide the customer to finding the best running shoe for their unique biometric gait.

Everyone on the team is running mad, from marathons down to 5ks, with hubby the most enthusiastic taking on regular Iron Man challenges.

“We survived the recession; in fact, we traded very well during the recession and now bang COVID, this is definitely harder,” says Kelly.

As Kelly remembers, the past few weeks of COVID have seen changes coming thick and fast. In the beginning they were not sure what to do but decided as a family business they should close and not risk people coming into the shop. They operated a click and pickup service initially but as things escalated and retail shops were formally closed on March 27th, they moved to pure online sales.

“We were lucky in that we already had a well-structured online presence and shop and didn’t have to struggle to build one quickly. We can personally deliver locally or use An Post for further afield.”

By closing the two physical shops they had to lay off staff. That was very hard for Kelly and her husband. “We have a great bunch of passionate people working with us – full time and part time – and it was very upsetting, but we hope it is only temporary.”

When the shops were closed in the middle of March Damien reacted as only a runner might:  he decided to do the David Goggins running challenge that involved a 4 mile run every 4 hours over 48 hours.

“David Goggins is an ex-navy seal and fitness guru that my husband follows,” explains Kelly. The extent of the challenge didn’t really hit home until the alarm was going off at 1am and then again at 4am. During the day the children ran with him and he had friends join hm at different times. But it’s the kind of challenge he enjoys. And he did it.”

At the same time the severity of the crisis really hit home: it was real and was here.

“At that time we felt the fear. We didn’t know what was going to happen. The levels of anxiety were huge. So, we knew the antidote to fear is faith. We knew that we couldn’t open but were looking in admiration and awe at the frontline health workers. We couldn’t open but they had to turn up to work every day – nurses, health workers, carers, old folk carers and then the supermarkets. We wanted to show our support.”

Kelly downplays her next move which was to post a notice on her Facebook and Instagram pages asking people to nominate a front line worker saying why they were their hero. Amphibian would then pick a person at random and send them a new pair of runners – and also send one to the nominee.

Kelly keeps on saying it was a small thing but it really captured the imagination of the running enthusiasts on social media. Soon she was flooded with messages from people talking about friends and family who were doing wonderful jobs.

“The gratitude was just amazing.  It was very moving to read the different stories. People tagged their friends and thanked all sorts of people from nurses to grocery store workers. We got hundreds of messages – all beautiful positive messages. It was really heart warming for us to read them. Sometimes social media can be filled with hate, but these messages were just fantastic.”

Kelly’s daughter Grace is bitten by the helping bug too. Previously she was part of a group of children knitting scarves for the homelessness called Stiches with Love. Recently she took down the sewing machine and is youtubing how to sew masks. “Kids are amazing,” says Kelly. “She is self teaching how to sew. It is great that young people can discover new skills and hobbies. The down time can be good.”

One other change in the Amphibian household is that without staff or customers in the shop, Damien can play whatever music he likes. His favourite artist is Kenny Rogers and as Kelly remarks “No one can tell him to change the music.”


Wicklow Good News was set up by Jillian Godsil and Marlena Murphy to celebrate the resilience and the enthusiam of Wicklow Citizens during the COVID19 pandemic.





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