Supporting Irish business is a passion of ours at Image, and it's easy with so many entrepreneurial and innovative Irish businesses to buy from. From now until Christmas we are highlighting Irish businesses or business people that we are excited about. Today it's Pudding Row in Co Sligo, whose Christmas Comfort Kits are ready to order.
What is your name, and what is your business?
I’m Dervla James and my business is Pudding Row, in Easkey, Co Sligo. Pudding Row began life as a lovely little café and has since morphed into another new space, called ‘the Grocer’, just down the street (it’s not a very big street).
How long have you been in business? And what was your mission from the outset?
We opened our doors a little over five years ago, on the 17th of July 2015, strangely opening the doors to the Grocer on the 17th of July, 2020. Freaky ... :) Our mission has always been to simply provide really good seasonal, homemade food and breads, made fresh using the best ingredients around, supporting local organic farms like our friends at Carrowgarry in Beltra and other community gardens and neighbours, but also to provide a social space in my home village of Easkey, somewhere for people to enjoy good food and drink, while feeling connected to the wider community.
Of what part of your business are you proudest?
I'm very proud of the energy and life that we have brought with us to Easkey, also helping to highlight its many strong qualities and hidden magic. Easkey is a very small seaside village in the North-West of Ireland, best known for it's great surfing. When we were first opening, people thought we were completely mad, that there wasn’t a large enough population to sustain our business. It was a bit of a "build it and they will come" kind of story. We were busy from the start and that has grown and grown and Pudding Row and Easkey itself has become somewhat of a destination for people. We've had visitors from all over the world coming in to us and have been lucky enough to be featured in newspapers and magazines such as the Irish Times, Sunday Times, New York Times, Lonely Planet, Vogue and many others.
Who are your business heroes? Personal heroes?
Aoibheann McNamara is both a personal hero and business hero of mine. Ard Bia is one of my all time favourite restaurants and everything Aoibheann does just has that extra polished touch which I admire so much. I'm lucky enough to call her a friend and she's always good to drop some sound advice or knowledge when it's most needed. Other business and personal heroes of mine would definitely be Jess Murphy of Kai, John and Sally McKenna, Donal Skehan and the dynamic duo Colleen and Aran of Cafe Rua, to just mention a few. These friends have been monumentally supportive over the years, in more ways than one.
How have you found the last six months?
They have been very strange to say the least. Professionally, I'm not the type of person to sit still so when we closed our doors on the 15th of March I knew I wouldn't be able to just wait it out. Back then we thought it would be a two-three week issue and then things would normalise but even if that was the case I needed to do something. I very quickly decided to keep baking and get my breads to the local people by whatever means necessary. My husband, Johny, has an IT background so he pulled an all-nighter and got a website built to handle the orders. Between the two of us we would manage the collections so we got that up and running very quickly. We received loads of messages from people who lived too far away to collect so we came up with our Comfort Kit, a box of homemade goodies that we could ship anywhere in the country. The response was insane. We were struggling to keep up with demand and very quickly we needed a number of our staff back off the Pandemic Payment to ramp up production. Having their hands and their energy fuelled us through the next few months of utter madness.
Personally, the slowdown in March was long overdue for me. I had been working so much that family life and real life had taken a bit of a back seat and I was most definitely burned out. Although we were busy during the lock-down it was more on our own terms and time off was much more relaxing for us. We have two little girls and we got to spend our days walking down the quiet country lanes near our house, going for cycles around the coast road and lots and lots of chilly dips in the Atlantic. Johny and I even found time to watch movies together which hadn't happened for a shockingly long time as we were working as a tag team for the past number of years. So, overall, I've been extremely lucky.
What keeps you positive?
Audiobooks, podcasts, my amazing parents/husband/friends and the sea. I grew up by the sea, my home house couldn’t be closer to it really. I sort of feel like sea water runs through my veins, so I’m so happy to have it so near, to listen to it or to run and jump head first into it after a hectic day.
The books I read are mostly all non-fiction, they keep me grounded and have allowed me to cultivate true compassion and gratitude which I believe is our ultimate goal in life. Right now I’m reading The Untethered Soul and it’s just wonderful. I need and love to have utter fluff in my life and I get it through podcasts like Happier with Gretchen Rubin and reading books with my girls like Anne of Green Gables or Little House in the Big Woods.
What new perspective have you gained from 2020?
The importance of down-time. Slowing down and appreciating what you have, counting your blessings and trying to look on the bright side. And also, the importance of adaptability. If we didn't figure out how to adapt our business so quickly, we just wouldn't have survived the year.
Best/worst moment from 2020?
Best: Our little, family staycation in September. We met friends, ate delicious food, found secret beaches for epic swims and stayed in the most beautiful little house overlooking Omey Island in Cleggan, called Norah’s cottage. It was just so lovely to escape from our own little bubble of west Sligo. We adore Connemara and have some lovely friends to call on there.
Worst: Obvious answer would be the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. So much uncertainty in terms of business and health. So much worry about family and friends. But a silver lining is the knowledge that things can change and the world can come out of this better and stronger than ever before.
How will you celebrate Christmas this year?
Snuggled up on the couch, by the fire with my kids watching Christmas movies and catching up on Bake Off! We’re taking a week off then to rest and recharge after what we expect to be a very busy period. We’ll spend Christmas with my parents hopefully. They live in Easkey too, so we’ll bunker down together ... we are all Christmas crazy. I blame my dad. He always made Christmas so whimsical and I aim to pass it all on to Edith and Matilda.
Another Irish business you want to shine a spotlight on?
Ursa Minor is a wonderful bakery and cafè in Ballycastle run by an amazing couple Ciara and Dara. Before we knew them properly we planned an entire holiday around going to their bakery and a second trip to take one of Dara’s incredible baking classes. Dara has helped me grow as a baker myself with countless texts over dough times and temperatures and all that other stuff we love as bread makers. And they named their new baby girl Easkey and that makes us so so happy. Then, when we’re in Galway, we always always stay in The Stop. Run by Emer and Russell. They are a true inspiration, in life, family, food, business and all things. So supportive of our own little enterprise and we are grateful to call these two great businesses our dear friends.
Anything else you would like to let us know?
We've launched a Christmas version of our Comfort Kits featuring homemade Christmas pudding, mince pies and other festive treats.
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