ANGELA’S corner shop, tucked in at the edge of Connolly Street in Midleton, is not your regular corner shop; it is more of a cornerstone at the centre of the community.
Like a famous celebrity, Angela’s is known on a first name basis.
“It’s nice that everybody knows me as Angela and that our shop is known as Angela’s all around Midleton and East Cork.
“Our customers became our friends over the years,” says Angela Hennessy, who has always been a staple behind the counter of the eponymous store she has run with her husband David O’Keefe for 34 years.
The couple have a son, David, 32, who works in hospitality.
“It doesn’t seem like we are trading here for over three decades,” says Angela, whose idiosyncratic layout of the store has seen it piled high with every-day necessities, fresh farm produce, crusty soda bread, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and the very necessary fresh cream cakes and crumbly apple-tarts that draw people to her welcoming door.
“Try one of our fresh cream cakes,” says Angela, who can see my mouth watering and my eyes watering at the thought of sampling a creamy custard and flaky pastry delight at 10.30 in the morning.
What about the calories I can ill afford?
“Never mind about those!” says Angela, whose natural people-person, friendly manner is renowned in the town of Midleton.
“We all deserve a treat!”
It was a treat for locals and shoppers coming to Midleton when Angela’s stayed open throughout the pandemic. The fresh fruit and vegetables were always invitingly displayed outside the front door, enticing people inside for more goodies.
When did Angela decide she wanted to be a shopkeeper, one who has gained huge popularity over the years?
“David and I met at a benefit squash night in Midleton,” says Angela.
“When I was getting ready to go out, I didn’t expect to meet the father of my children that night!”
But she did. And she met her business partner too, who is always available to give people a hand with their shopping and arrange deliveries to those who can’t come to Angela’s in person.
“David and I work well together,” says Angela.
“We make a good partnership.”
Does working and living together 24/7 cause any grief?
“If it does. we aren’t long sorting it out!” says Angela, laughing.
No doubt a flaky pastry and a strong cuppa would help resolve any situation?
“Yes indeed!” agrees Angela, who is a social person, always up for a chat.
Angela and David had a lot in common from the start.
“We had both lost our jobs,” says Angela.
“I had worked in a shop most of my life and I was keen to own a shop of my own.
“A friend knew this premises was up for leasing and so we looked into it. We opened on June 15, 1987.”
The rest is history. Connolly Street is synonymous with Angela’s, whose loyal customers include friendly neighbours and the students and teachers from Midleton College across the road.
“Angela often calls my daughter into the shop out of the rain after school if I’m running late,” says regular customer, Mairead, who picks up her daughter at the school gates every day.
“She is so kind.”
Angela’s, at 7, Connolly Street, wasn’t always on the Midleton map as a one-stop shop for fresh supplies, sociability, and activity.
Gabriel Byrne and Angela Lansbury would both agree that is a fine place.
“Angela Lansbury has a house in east Cork,” says Angela. “When she was holidaying in the summer; she often called in. She’s a nice friendly lady who is very appreciative of what we offer.”
And heart-throb Gabriel?
“He paid us a visit when he stayed at Ballymaloe where he got married,” says Angela.
“He loved the shop.”
Is Gabriel as handsome in real-life as he is on the screen?
“He is gorgeous!” says Angela. “And he is so courteous as well.”
David hesitantly agrees.
“A lovely man,” he says.
“He gave me a kiss!” says Angela.
Moving swiftly on, the local suppliers delivering to Angela’s over the years are special people too.
“They are so reliable,” says Angela.
And they deliver top-class quality goods to us every morning.
“We have built up a great relationship with them over the years.”
Local suppliers and local food producers formed a steady working relationship and a friendly relationship with the couple down the years.
Steady customers formed a queue on Connolly Street outside the shop.
“Barry’s Bakery, Midleton, was a regular supplier of ours,” says Angela.
“Since it closed, Harringtons in Youghal, and the Old Mill Bakery supply us with fresh confectionary and bread.
“Barrens bread from Cappoquin is a good seller too. Panna bread is the best-seller.”
Home-bakers brought their wares to Angela’s too.
“Home-baker Mona Lowry was a regular supplier,” says Angela. “Her brown bread was legendary.”
Angela’s mother was a legend.
“My mother’s scones were a best-seller,” says Angela.
They sold like hot cakes.
“Yes, they did,” says Angela.
“And so did Eileen O’Keefes’s apple and rhubarb tarts.”
People came from far and wide to shop at Angela’s.
“Our customers are from Midleton, Dungarvan, Clonmult, Cobh, and Little Island,” says Angela.
She caters for all of them.
“We operate a ‘book’ system to facilitate our regulars,” adds Angela. “Some people still like to avail of it.”
Everybody likes to avail of the first crop of new potatoes which Angela and David secure every spring.
“Richard Williams supplies us with the first crop of early potatoes,” says Angela.
“Henry Savage delivers the main crop to us.”
Angela and David are hard-grafters and they have built up their business over the years, putting it firmly on the retail map in east Cork.
“We’re open six days a week,” says David, who is kitted out in his apron and all businesslike, chatting to his customers and helping them with their shopping.
“Our hours are 7am to 6pm week-days. On Saturday, when the Midleton market attracts a lot of people to town, we open from 6am to 6pm and then a half-day Sunday.”
The couple must have dealt with a lot of customers over 30 years?
“Indeed we have,” David says.
“We’ve made some great friends through the generations and sadly we have lost some of them that passed away.”
The social hub that is Angela’s attracts a cross-section of people.
“It is like as social centre for older people!” says David.
“We know everyone by name.”
Did Angela’s ever struggle to survive with the arrival of big multi-national supermarkets in town or during the down-turn around 2008?
“It was a bit of a struggle to stay open for a year or so during the down-turn after the Celtic Tiger years,” says David.
“But after a year and a half we came through all right.”
The loyal customers, used to dealing with friendly faces and first-name terms, didn’t defect to shop at the big supermarkets.
“Our regular customers are constant,” says David.
Maybe the custard cream cakes and the luscious home-made apple tarts oozing with fruit juice have something to do with the regular flow of satisfied customers?
“Possibly,” says David, laughing.
“We try to stock everything our customers require and know that they can get here every day.
“Often, people order ahead and we get their order ready for collection. If they can’t come to the shop for any reason — like cocooning during lockdown — we arrange delivery to their door.
“The first lockdown was the busiest; there seemed to be a new cohort of customers and many of them were not going to work every day so they shopped local. And there are a lot of new houses in Midleton.”
Business is brisk at Angela’s all year round.
“Christmas is hectic!” says Angela.
“The spuds and the baked ham are in big demand then!”
Angela and David like being in demand by their customers.
“We look forward to coming in to work every day,” says Angela.
“We could never imagine not doing that. There is nothing like coming into work every day.
“It’s our life.”
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