By Padraig Hoare
One of the most beloved Cork family businesses of the past two decades, the Alternative Bread Company (ABC) in the English Market, celebrates its 20th birthday on Saturday - with Cork Simon Community taking the day’s proceeds.
Company founder Sheila Fitzpatrick said Cork Simon had a special connection with ABC, and that donating the day’s takings to the organisation felt right in the current crisis.
“Simon was the first place we donated the bread that was left at the end of the day, and we’ve had an association with them ever since. It’s a sad and sobering thought that 20 years on, the need in Cork is greater than ever, and – particularly approaching Christmas – we just wanted to stop and recognise how fortunate we have been when so many people are still facing such hardship,” she said.
ABC has become renowned all over Ireland for its artisan bread since it was first opened for business in 1997 by Ms Fitzpatrick and master baker Paul Walsh.
“Back then we really were very alternative. I was the strange lady who was talking about putting tomatoes or prunes and chocolate in the dough, and now no-one bats an eyelid at our pints and half pints of Guinness bread. We have evolved as our customers’ tastes have changed, and I hope we made it an exciting journey,” added Sheila.
ABC was voted Ireland’s Friendliest Business in 2012, and has featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide and Discovery Channel’s travel programmes.
The company’s bread is locally produced and delivered fresh every day to the shop in the central aisle of the English Market in Grand Parade.
Originally, ABC produced its entire range, but has since expanded extensively into speciality areas and working with local artisan producers.
Dermot Kavanagh, director of Cork Simon Community, said the organisation was most grateful for the support of ABC over the years.
“As the number of people turning to us for help continues to increase, we’re very appreciative of their most recent support in the form of a day-long fundraiser this Saturday. It’s only with thanks to such conscientious and generous support from the community that we are keeping our doors open around-the-clock, every day of the year, for everyone who needs our help. We congratulate ABC on 20 successful years in business and their generosity over those years, and we wish them every continued success,” he said.