A seaside corner shop in County Cork that still serves ice cream wafer sandwiches

As we continue our series on Cork’s corner shops, CHRIS DUNNE heads to Fountainstown to catch up with Angela Cantwell
A seaside corner shop in County Cork that still serves ice cream wafer sandwiches

Angela Cantwell at Angela's Shop in Fountainstown, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

‘OH, we do like to be beside the seaside, we do like to be beside the sea...’ and when we’re there we do like to have a creamy ice-cream, or even a juicy slice of home-made apple tart to finish off the picnic while the kids (and the adults), build sandcastles.

We can have all this and more in Angela Cantwell’s little slice of heaven in Fountainstown, where Angela’s Shop enjoys a summer lovin’ vibe all year round.

“It is great to see people out and about again enjoying the great outdoors now that the country is opening up again,” the shop owner said.

Angela, from her vantage point on the edge of her own little paradise, has gained notoriety both at home and abroad. News of the shop that literally stocks everything from a needle to an anchor has travelled far and wide.

“I’ve had people come into the shop from all over the world,” says Angela, who has the perfect perch behind her shop counter to pass the time of day, chatting to her customers as well as acting as local tour guide, informing visitors of the gems on land and sea that inhabit the beautiful locality.

“My neighbours tell me that their relatives, visiting Cork from Australia and New Zealand, have called in here and that they were amazed when they could get all their bits and pieces for a day out at the seaside, all at a one-stop shop!”

Angela even got a mention on the national air-waves, on the Ryan Tubridy show.

“I was delighted when I heard Ryan mention the shop on his radio show one morning back in March,” says Angela, who makes waves of her own being almost like an institution in the locality.

“Lots of people commented to me about it, I was chuffed!”

Ryan was praising the wonderful established corner shops around the country that serve the community and that are part of the community. Angela’s shop topped the list.

“Ryan said that people could get their jammy fruit scone, tea, coffee, bucket and spade and even their fishing tackle here in the shop!” says Angela, laughing.

Does she really sell anchors too?

“Only small ones as souvenirs!” replies Angela, with a smile.

Angela’s shop is indeed like a treasure trove that came from a thousand leagues under the sea.

“Would you like an ice cream wafer sandwich?” she enquires.

Would I what! The last time I had an ice cream sandwich was when I spent my summer holidays at my grandmother’s house aged 10 and she brought me to Curtain’s all-in-one shop in Rockchapel where petrol was filled into the ageing Ford Cortina and where eager bellies were filled with all sorts of goodies.

 Angela Cantwell at Angela's Shop in Fountainstown, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Angela Cantwell at Angela's Shop in Fountainstown, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

“The ice cream wafer sandwich always seems to bring back lovely childhood memories,” says Angela, who since she bought the shop in 1989, has heard many of her customers reminisce about the halcyon days of their youth. She’s right. Fifty years of memories melt in my mouth as the banana ice cream sandwich is licked and relished.

“The ice cream sandwich is one of my best-sellers,” says Angela, who also provides other delightful sundries — high-rise scones, crusty homemade soda bread, fresh crispy crunchy salad sandwiches, ice-cool minerals, creamy cones, and the rest.

“I have everything you could want for going on a summer holiday excursion,” says Angela, delighted with life and delighted to be out of lockdown.

Maybe she could even sing a bar of Cliff Richard’s hit, ‘ We’re all going on a summer holiday?

“I often join in with my friends from the care home up the road who visit me often,” says Angela. 

“They enjoy a get-together here, and now and again one of the singers will give us a song as the friends gather sitting outside enjoying their little outing on a fine summer’s evening. It’s lovely.”

Everyone and everything is on-song at Angela’s.

“I’ve made lots of friends who are residents in the local care-home and, of course, I have lovely neighbours here too.”

She has made friends here from all walks of life.

“In the RTÉ Guide, Derval O’Rourke said this shop was one of her favourite places,” says Angela with pride.

“Bishop Buckley often called in when he was presenting trophies for community events. He never left us down.”

How did Angela, now a staple in Fountainstown, and who is immersed in the community where she lives, come to be a resident in this little slice of heaven?

“I bought the shop in 1989,” says Angela.

She almost didn’t.

“I was looking for a summer house for myself and the kids,” adds Angela, from Douglas.

“Back then I had four kids under nine. We lived in Cork city.

“I came across this premises that was closed at the time. Peg, the owner, had passed away. I thought maybe I’d rent it.”

But she didn’t.

“It really was by accident that I bought the house next to the shop,” says Angela, whose sister owns Karla’s Boutique in east village, Douglas.

“I had lived in Douglas for 30 years.”

She really wanted to get her hands on Peg’s shop.

“When Peg died, the shop was derelict,” says Angela.

“I’d have given anything for the shop next to my house.”

She gave her all to attain the little piece of heaven.

“I got the keys on a Thursday and I opened up shop on Saturday!”

Peg’s shop was an old place but it was a wonderful place that sold everything in its day. Angela was intent on carrying on Peg’s age-old legacy.

“I stock everything from needles and thread to ice cream cones and ice cream wafer sandwiches,” she says.

And she was inventive.

“The shop had no counter and I put in new floors as well as a shop counter.”

 Angela Cantwell at Angela's Shop in Fountainstown, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Angela Cantwell at Angela's Shop in Fountainstown, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

She had a good foundation.

“We put stones from the beach underneath the floor boards.”

The shop was a wonderful place to live beside and work in and to provide fresh air and freedom for her children. The house was their residence all year round.

“I stock everything from needles and thread to ice cream cones and ice cream sandwiches,” says Angela.

Does she work 24/7; 7 days a week?

“My daughter Louise often helps me out,” says Angela. “But I’m here most of the time.”

She made herself at home from day one.

“Everyone knows me!”

Angela’s shop is a home-from-home.

“The elderly customers love stopping in for a cuppa and a chat. I love older people; they have such great stories to tell. We swap stories and we get to know one another.”

Is Angela elderly herself, I ask, now that I’ve enjoyed her hospitality and I’ve ‘made my own’ of her.

“I’m 74. Being on my feet is no problem,” says Angela, who still has a definite pep in her step.

Her shop that stocks hoards of tasty bites, as well as everything you need for the beach, and everything you need on the way home from the beach, is indeed a peachy place.

It’s lacking one thing maybe?

“It’s a meeting place; it’s a pub with no beer!”

Who needs beer when you can have banana ice cream wafer sandwiches washed down with a cold mineral while having the banter?

“The assortment of people I meet coming into the shop is just fantastic,” says Angela.

What time is the evening sing-song?

“Usually after tea, between 6pm and 6.30pm,” says Angela.

I’d love to stay, but I must make haste.

“Take a cake with you for the road home,” says Angela, offering me a freshly baked home-made creamy cake.

“People love my cakes.”

Has she a secret recipe for these luscious cakes.

“My pal who makes the fresh cakes every day for me would murder me if I told you!”

That would be a calamity indeed.

Angela is here to stay in her own slice of paradise.

“I love my life,” she says.

“I love the people, and I love my job. I don’t look on what I do as a job at all.”

Angela’s Shop is Angela’s dream.

“Working here 7 days a week, being social among my customers and my friends, is something I really appreciate,” she says.

Angela, like her ice-cream wafer sandwiches, is in big demand.

“They look for me if I’m not there!”

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