The English Market in Cork has launched a start-up stall initiative to foster fledgling food businesses.

A once-vacant stall in the city council-owned market has been revamped to provide new businesses with a four- to six-week lease and a platform to sell their products. The stall can be adapted quickly to suit various businesses, ensuring the tenants avoid start-up costs.

Its first tenants, ice cream and sorbet business Oh! Naturelle, moved in yesterday.

Co-owners Louise Ryan and Aisling Murphy from Blarney, Cork, who have taken their diet-friendly and dairy-, gluten-, and soya-free products from their kitchen onto SuperValu shelves in January via the SuperValu Food Academy, said they were delighted with the opportunity.

“We use whole fresh fruit and the opportunity to sell directly to customers in a market that’s renowned for that commitment to food, and to be part of that culture, it’s really important for us, and fantastic exposure to show our product,” Louise said.

Aisling said it was an incredible opportunity, given they are only in business since the start of the year.

“We already sell out take-home tubs from the shops,” she said. “Using the start-up stall will really help us figure out if selling soft-serve scoops is viable. You get to test it for six weeks, see how sales go, and then evaluate if this is something the business can do.”

Pic:Darrage Kane
Pic:Darrage Kane

The initiative has been developed by the city council and Órla Lannin, the market manager with Arrowmark Property, and is backed by the market traders.

Pat O’Connell, chairman of the English Market Traders’ Association, said it would give food entrepreneurs an opportunity to trade in one of the best markets in Europe, with reduced start-up costs and risk.

“It’s very difficult to get into a food business today, with all the regulations,” he said. “You just can’t do what my mother did many years ago with a timber table, a bit of marble on top, and a drain pipe. That won’t cut it any more. There is a huge initial outlay and a big gamble starting out today.

“If it doesn’t work, not only do you lose your business, you lose your shirt as well. This start-up stall will give give somebody who has an idea and who wants to develop it, a chance to test the market in the real-world, and to tweak the product, develop a passion for it, and that is what this market is very much about.”

Council spokeswoman Alison O’Rourke said up to 10 producers will trade from the stall over the coming months, with Smokehouse Stall, owned by Conrad Howard, lined up as the next tenants.

Interested businesspeople can get more information at www.englishmarket.ie.

City to spend €2m to raise the roof at the English Market

Eoin English

Talks are underway to plough up to €2m into vital upgrades of Cork’s English Market.

Most of the investment will be needed for a new roof for the renowned city-owned indoor market to replace the ageing structure installed in the 1990s.

Consultants have been engaged to carry out a full assessment of the market’s structural requirements. A spokesman for City Hall said their report will inform the nature, costing and programming of the required upgrades. However, he confirmed that up to €2m could be required over the coming years.

Ice cream makers make the most of start-up stall opportunity in Cork's English Market

Pat O’Connell, chairman of the market traders’ association, said they are working closely with City Hall on the plan, and on a marketing strategy. But it will need vision and heavy investment, he said.

“We have something very special in the market. But a market that stands still dies,” said Mr O’Connell.

“There is an appreciation in City Hall for what they have here in the market. It works. But we want to make it a stand-out product.

“We are a huge showcase for Irish food, for Cork food. It’s the best in the world, famous for its products and people. The market has become world-renowned, but we need to keep improving and developing it. Otherwise it won’t survive.”

Mr O’Connell says that one of the key challenges will be to manage tourist footfall, and to provide these visitors with a tasting area that doesn’t interfere with the market’s day-to-day trade.

“We are very focused on keeping that magic,” he said.

“That’s what keeps this market vibrant and alive. We must keep the rapport between customer and stall holder, that sense of fun and sense of Cork — the tradition, the skill, theatre, craic — that’s what this market is about. That’s the bit we have to develop.”

Work is continuing on the regeneration of the Capitol cinema site next door, which will feature a food innovation hub. Mr O’Connell said the development will benefit the entire city centre.


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