The owner of Munster’s leading survivalist store is selling up and going back to his ‘home steading’ roots as he says after seven happy years in Macroom, the double impact of the pandemic and Brexit has caused tough times.
Sven Ridgeway, who is also featuring in a new TG4 doc about the apocalypse, is an awful lot chirpier than you might expect someone who spends a lot of time prepping for the end of days to be – and he is looking forward to going back to market stalls and setting up on his own plot of land with livestock.
When he landed in Macroom eight years ago with plans to open the The Irish Prep and Bushcraft Store selling knives, axes, and bow and arrows, he stopped into the local Gardai station to give them a head’s up – it’s safe to say jaws dropped.
Yet, despite being painted in giant camouflage print, Sven says he and his store ‘could not have fit into Macroom more easily” and that the local community has been “genuinely welcoming and happy to have a different kind of business here.”
“There was the odd raised eyebrow and sometimes little old women would come in and have a look around and ask me what it was all about, but the locals and the other shopkeepers have been great,” Sven said.
There is a spectrum within the survivalist community – some people are interested in extreme camping Bear Grylls style, some people are anticipating every apocalyptic scenario possible and prepping for each one diligently.
Sven, originally from the UK, is a pretty hardcore survivalist. He grew up in the shadow of the cold war and the “duck and cover,” mentality that it inspired and his family lived on the Northwest coast near the UK’s worst ever nuclear accident – the Windscale fire of 1957.
“It happened up the road from us and it horrified me as a boy, I remember looking out at the sea one day and the water seemed to literally be glowing green.
“One of the reasons I moved to Ireland was because one of the furthest countries from nuclear reactors in Europe – and because I saw a gap in the market when it comes to survivalism here,” he explained.
As much as survivalism is a part of Sven’s outlook in the world, he also saw the lifestyle aspect of ‘prepping’ as a business opportunity – and it was very lucrative when he first started selling everything from camping gear to outdoor cooking utensils.
“At the same time as I opened the Irish survivalist group started up, so people were coming from all over the country and further afield to come to the store which was wonderful.
“Some people just wanted camping gear, others were prepping for everything from a hurricane, economic collapse, and of course, a pandemic,” Sven said.
Ultimately, apart from the impact of Brexit and the increase in customs charges it brought, it has been the pandemic that has made Sven decide to close the doors of his shop.
“A lot of our customers travelled here and they couldn’t do that anymore with lockdowns,” Sven said.
He does see the irony in one of the world-ending scenarios his customers were prepping for having a negative impact on a business that helps people prepare for the end – but he has a pretty good sense of humour about the whole thing, and he seems ready for a change of pace.
‘The end hasn’t come just yet!” he joked, “I’m still selling off a lot of stock so it’s a great time for people to pop in and say hello, and I will be back at the market in Skibbereen and elsewhere.”
He says he is looking forward to settling down on a plot of land with some “fowl, a couple of pigs, drinking milk from my own goats and maybe even having some pheasants, as I’m also a hunter.
Listening to him talking about it, you might even think he’s optimistic about the future.
You can catch more of Sven and the Irish survivalist community on TG4’s Go mBeirimid Beo this Wednesday at 9:30pm.