It was established in 1940 by Des Kenny & Maureen Kenny firstly as a book shop. In order to develop the business, Des and Maureen turned their attention to Irish Crafts and Art. There were few shops selling craft products such as rugs, sweaters, baskets, ceramics and even leprechauns at the time! Artists began to arrive with paintings and sculpture. For example, Kenneth Webb first showed his paintings there in 1953. In 1968 it was decided that the art deserved an exhibition area of its own. Once again, Maureen and Desmond looked to their own home for the expansion of the business. They converted their own living room into an art gallery and provided the West of Ireland with its first Art Gallery, opening their home to art lovers from all around the world.
The first exhibition was by artist Sean Keating and the gallery has hosted several hundred since and has held works by artists such as John Behan, Paul Guilfoyle, Bernadette Madden, Bernard Reynolds, T.J. Miles, Alexandra Van Tuyll, Kenneth Webb, Charlo Quain, Jean Bardon, and Anne Rigney
In 2006 Kennys closed the bookshop section of its premises but maintained a very successful webstore. The entire High Street/Middle Street building was transformed into the largest commercial Art Gallery in Ireland.
In 2008 they re-opened a large bookstore in Liosban Retail Park.
Web folklore has it that Kennys Bookshop was the second bookshop in the world to have its own website. Only a sci-fi shop in San Francisco beat them to it
Desmond was a Galwegian, the son of journalist Thomas Kenny who had founded the "The Connacht Tribune" in 1909. Maureen, a native of Mohill, Co. Leitrim won a scholarship to attend University College Galway (UCG) where she studied Commerce. On her first day in UCG she met Desmond, who was studying Arts.
During the 1970s, the family started drifting into the business. All, with the exception of Jane, who went on to study psychology and is now a teacher in Galway, found their niche within the business.
Although both Des and Maureen have now died their family continue to run the business. Their children include Tom Kenny (bookseller), Des Kenny (bookseller), Monica Rigney, Karen Golden, Conor Kenny, Maureen Kenny, Jane Hogan.
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