Barry and Leanna McBride, who run Leanna’s family business in the heart of Killinchy are celebrating the 20th anniversary of McCann’s General Store joining the SPAR family in Northern Ireland.


To mark the occasion, they were presented with a commemorative plaque by Mr John Agnew, former Chairman of the Henderson Group, which owns the SPAR brand in Northern Ireland.


The anniversary has allowed the families to reminisce about their shared history of trading together, starting in the early 1900s with Hubert McCann and John Henderson.


The McCann’s developed the general store throughout the early 1900s, with Leanna’s uncle, Hubert McCann regularly visiting St. George’s Market in Belfast where he did business with John Henderson, the grandfather of Mr John Agnew whose sons Martin and Geoffrey are Joint Managing Directors and Chairmen of the Henderson Group today.


Back at the store in Balloo, the Post Office opened in 1910, followed by Hubert’s reign behind the tills from 1929 until 1991. While the store was briefly outside of the family for a few years, Leanna and Barry bought it back in 2002, beginning business with the Henderson Group once again.


McCann’s adopted the SPAR brand in 2007, initially trading as a VG from 2002 with just eight employees, and thanks to several developments and expansions over the last 20 years, team numbers have quadrupled, with 30 staff now employed at the store, with Barry and Leanna at the helm.


Leanna McBride says the store is right at the heart of their local community, offering everyday essentials alongside options for their foodie customer base too.


Leanna commented; “While the original façade of the building from the late 1800s still stands today, our store has seen many developments and changes over the years. We love the history behind the shop and the fact that it’s been in the family for over 100 years. Being part of the community ourselves has helped us expand over the years in order to meet the ever-growing needs and demands of our neighbours, as well as those visiting the area and passing through towards Killyleagh and Strangford Lough.”


During their first year of opening, the McBride’s installed a portacabin that housed their shop, alongside the retail space which was made from a hay barn. Today this space still houses their café and hardware store – a recent project for Barry and Leanna, adding 4,500sq. ft. of selling space for the store. Overall, the family has invested around £700,000 over the years. 


Barry McBride added; “Our store has a lot of traditional and historical elements which we still celebrate in-store today. We have a piece of the old Belfast to County Down railway incorporated into the roof structure of the store build. We love the history that it incorporates into our store – it’s unique in that way.”


Leanna continued; “I’m really proud to be running the same store that my uncle Hubert built the foundations of so many years ago. We’re proud to stock so many  suppliers from our local area – within the SPAR own-brand ranges, but also local produce from fruit and veg suppliers. We are so lucky to have these suppliers on our doorsteps around the Ards Peninsula and South Down.” 


Such suppliers include Hillside Homebakes, Angela’s Bakery, Mange Tout, and Saintfield Griddle.


Barry finished; “We also make sure we source those more interesting ingredients and ranges as we have a knowledgeable foodie community in Killinchy – we’re known to have some exotic fruit and veg in our chillers alongside our local milk cartons!”