Trading Stories: Greenwich a fine addition to Cork’s cafe offering

Trading Stories: Greenwich a fine addition to Cork’s cafe offering

Dermot O'Sullivan, manager/owner of Greenwich Café, Caroline Street. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Cork’s newest cafe, which opened at the beginning of 2022, is championing all that is good about the county.

Greenwich, on Caroline St, opened in January on the premises of what was once Idaho cafe.

“My background is in both business and catering, as I worked as a restaurant consultant in Dublin, before returning to Cork, my homeland, after five years,” proprietor Dermot O’Sullivan said.

“I studied commerce in UCC, a master’s in the food business, worked internationally for a few years, then went to Ballymaloe to learn how to cook.

“From there, I worked in some great kitchens, including Hayfield Manor, Longueville House, Ballymaloe House, so my background has always been food, but in different avenues,” Dermot said.

The inspiration for the venture was his love to cook.

“It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but I love what I do.

“When I’m on the floor in the cafe and someone asks about the menu, I give them the whole story, back to the farmer who grows it,” he said.

“Customers love that sense of connection, as it’s a cafe showcasing Cork as much as possible.

“I am a stickler for detail and love old-fashioned hospitality, which is why I spent a season in Kenmare Park Hotel, operated by Francis Brennan, and I like to bring elements of this to the cafe, including welcoming every customer and paying attention to the little things,” he added.

However, Dermot said that opening his own business came with its challenges.

“To say it was difficult would be an understatement,” he said.

“Bear in mind, I was approaching the banks with a business plan to take over a restaurant business that wasn’t allowed to open indoors.

“I had to put a bulletproof business plan together and the banks really put me through the hoops and rightly so.

“It was a solid exercise, as I knew so much about my costs prior to ever getting the finances,” he added.

“It really makes you think and although I love producing good food, margins are tight and with inflation at an all-time high, margins are getting even tighter.

“However, I had to make it work.

“I found the perfect spot, after years of searching, and I just knew I needed to make it happen, and here I am.”

Dermot said that the people of Cork have been an incredible support.

“We have built a nice customer base and it’s not unusual for someone to stop me outside the cafe and wish me all the best,” he said.

“It means a lot, as setting up a business can be a very lonely place, so knowing many are there with support is nice.

“I’ve noticed that the people of Cork have a genuine curiosity and it is not unusual for me to be chatting to a customer until their tea has gone cold because they want my full background story.

“Many articles or posts I have read in recent months regarding Cork being ‘tired’ or ‘rundown’, but, really, for me, the true beauty of Cork City is its people,” he added.

“Buildings can be redeveloped, closed shops will reopen, and the city will continue to rejuvenate, but the essence of the city is its people, and this is something that is unique to Cork.”

Greenwich has five staff, as well as Dermot, who said he can be a kitchen porter, server, barista, or cook on any given day.

Dermot O’Sullivan: “We have built a nice customer base and it’s not unusual for someone to stop me outside the cafe and wish me all the best.”	Picture: Jim Coughlan
Dermot O’Sullivan: “We have built a nice customer base and it’s not unusual for someone to stop me outside the cafe and wish me all the best.” Picture: Jim Coughlan

“I have one location and absolutely no plans or desire to expand,” he added.

While Greenwich opened when Ireland was easing Covid-19 restrictions, the pandemic has affected business.

“When I opened the business, Covid restrictions eased, so I have not been impacted in the same way as many established businesses,” he said.

“However, this is not to say it hasn’t had an impact on the business. I feel if many of the shops in the city went back to their original opening hours, it would be a real boost, and getting more people back to the office would definitely be a boost for small businesses in the city,” he added.

“Tourism Ireland invested over €350,000 euro in Caroline St outdoor redevelopment and this has been such a boost.”

Dermot said Greenwich has big plans for the summer and beyond.

“We recently changed to a weekend brunch offering, which sees the cafe open from 8.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday serving brunch, and on Sunday from 10am to 3.30pm serving brunch,” he said.

“We will be opening Mondays for the summer, too, and we have wine talks coming up, too, with Colm McCann, of Le Caveau.

“We have artist Alan Hurley continuing to showcase his art on our walls, too, which is something that evolved naturally and a great boost to a Cork-based artist,” Dermot said.

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