Happy Days for Tom as his sons follow him into family business

Happy Days for Tom as his sons follow him into family business

Tom, Mark, and Scott Harrington, Apache Pizza, at their Ballyvolane branch. Picture: Jim Coughlan

How did you get into this line of business?

My wife Ann's brother, Frank Peyton, had a chipper called The Pickin' Chicken, a famous chipper in the 1970s and '80s. Back in 1981, I got a job there, and the rest is history.

I started off on my own in Hollyhill in 1985, with The Burger Hut, and we took on Apache Pizza in 2001.

When I started, there was a recession on. I was only 25. I was young enough, and I had two jobs. I worked for the ESB as well from 1979 until 1996. I looked up to Frank a lot. He was a role model to me. Everyone knew each other and helped each other out back then, and then Denis Buckley gave us the opportunity to open up ourselves. I was in a partnership back then with Noel Buckley, and we did well. The unit next door came up so we bought that and expanded into. Our success now is because we have a traditional chipper and the Apache Pizza. We're covering all angles. We do all our own battering, and we cut our own chips. We're famous for our mini potato pies and cheese and onion pies. What you get with us is a huge mix and range.

Why did you add pizza to the mix?

The reason I got into the pizza game was because I had kids. They wanted pizza, but it was expensive back then, so it was only a treat.

I saw that the market was there for young people, and it was growing. Apache had done the research in America, and they were right because they now have over 150 franchises.

We have four branches altogether. We have Hollyhill, where we started. In 2006 we opened in Parchment Square, Model Farm Road. In 2015 we opened in Douglas, and in October 2016 we opened in Ballyvolane.

How did your sons get involved?

When they were younger, Mark and Scott didn't really want to follow their dad. But when the recession hit, they had jobs but there was no permanency. They hit the ripe old age of 29 and a bit of maturity hit them. They saw that I wanted to expand, so they joined me. Now, Mark runs the Douglas shop, Scott is in Ballyvolane, and Matthew Buji runs the Parchment Square branch. We all work well together. We each run our own place, and then meet once or twice a week to see how we can improve, and everybody has an equal say. The four shops are growing, and we're looking at other locations.

Are you involved in the local community?

Everywhere we go, we get involved. I gave ten or twelve defibrillators to schools and clubs around Cork a few years ago. We did a fundraiser through the clubs to buy them. It's all about giving back to the local community.

We do a lot of sponsorship, and we're involved in St Vincents, The Glen Club, Mayfield United. We've worked with Douglas GAA and Bishopstown GAA. Everywhere we go, we get involved.

How did the recession affect business?

During the recession, a large 16'' pizza cost €22. We had to change the business model, so we were the first in the country to offer any large pizza for just €10. That worked very well. If we hadn't done that, we mightn't be talking about the business now.

I saw during the recession that we could expand into parties. So now we cater for all kinds of events. We can cater for up to 2,000 people in a day. We do a deal for €100 where you get five large pizzas, 30 dippers, 100 sausages, 50 of our mini potato pies and cheese and onion pies, and two boxes of chips. That will feed 40 people and we deliver anywhere in the city.

What's in the future for the business?

We're still growing, so Mark and Scott are going to look at opening up another one.

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