Finding the recipe for sweet success

A BUSINESS that started up in the middle of the recession is thriving and winning awards and receiving prestigious accolades since they opened their door just over two years ago.

A BUSINESS that started up in the middle of the recession is thriving and winning awards and receiving prestigious accolades since they opened their door just over two years ago.

Glasrai and Goodies in the heart of Gowran village is a treasure trove of all the foods and culiniary delights one can imagine.

Walking in the door of the shop is akin to peering into the larder of a foodie or chef of God-like status. All the produce looks perfect and beside everything is something else to tantalise and titilate the senses. There is a warm and welcoming atmosphere and you know instantly that you have stumbled on something special, somewhere you will return to in the future time and time again.

It is not surprising in the least to discover that it was their customers’ who nominated them for their recent nomination in The Irish Times as best artisan food shop. Derek and Siobhan Lawler immediately make you at ease and it is clear that the business is as much a labour of love as it is a commercial venture. “The property came up nine years ago and I suppose we just jumped in,” said Derek. Initially the couple both worked for the website constructionjobs.ie but when the industry took a dive they decided to make use of the space attached to their home on the Main Street in Gowran. to rethink. “Siobhan is the real inspiration behind it. She was always interested in food and we eat out a lot and had a circle of friends who enjoyed gourmet nights. We were very keen to get high quality, artisan, locally sourced produce and we are delighted that there is such a wide range available in Kilkenny and in Ireland. Our main priority is to support local producers and use Irish food,” said Derek. The couple opened the doors of Glasrai and Goodies in Feburary 2010 and haven’t looked back since. Sheer hard graft, a passion for food and putting the customer first and ensuring that their needs are met are all essential ingredients in the shop’s success.

“There was no fruit and veg shop in the village so we focused on that combined with a gift shop,” said Derek. A deli, which has become a popular lunchtime option both for those working in the locality and passing through, excellent coffee and stocking a range of artisan food produce have all been added to the initial blueprint. “It evolved over time and now we have a deli and coffee and there is a huge lunchtime business. People come over from Goresbridge and a lot of people stop en route. The village population is small so our footfall is a combination of good local support and people passing by.“We have low overheads as we run it ourselves and it is still in it’s infancy. We are bowled over by the coverage that it has got already. We were shortlisted for an award with Good Food Ireland and we received an Against the Wind business award from the council as well as the Irish Times nomination. A few customers mentioned the Irish Times competition where customers were given the opportunity to vote for their favourite shop and we were delighted to get the nomination,” added Derek.

As well as having a great rapport with a loyal and ever growing band of customers the couple also have three local ladies, including Josephine Plettenburg who is renowned for her spelt bread baking for them. “Hopefully there will be a spin off and some micro businesses developing around our mini business,” said Derek. “It is all about the quality. We are big foodies and we saw a niche in the market. It is handy for people to be able to get the ingredients that they need locally and we are constantly sourcing new produce. There is a great community in the village and people really try and shop locally. Everyone seems to realise the importance of keeping business in the village. When it comes to our customers nothing is too much to ask. We are happy to sell one egg or half a loaf - whatever people want. We have fabulous, loyal customers and we are eternally grateful for them. Once someone discovers us we tend to see them again. Everything is produced fresh and nothing is processed. The shop is a dream come true for us. It is something that we always wanted to do. I went to Dublin straight after school so it is fantastic to be back in Kilkenny and village life is lovely,” added Siobhan, who is originally from Patrick Street. Local produce stocked in Glasrai and Goodies includes Knockdrinna Cheese, The Truffle Fairy, Highbank, Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Edward Entertains, Mosses Apple Juice and the Inistioge Food Company.