Vintage coffee van proves a hit with Cork coffee lovers... and their canines

Two Cork men have set up a mobile coffee venture, currently based at Douglas Woollen Mills. CHRIS DUNNE talks to founder Ian Whelan about his mum who inspired his new business
Vintage coffee van proves a hit with Cork coffee lovers... and their canines

Ian Whelan of Fadó coffee which is located at St Patrick's Woollen Mills in Douglas, County Cork.

TWO Cork natives and childhood friends, Ian Whelan of Douglas and Peter McCabe of Kanturk, wanted to create a space where the local community in Douglas (and their furry friends), could get a quality cup of coffee and meet for a sociable chat. The two have a passion for coffee and conversation.

“Yes, we like to see people meeting up and chatting over a coffee,” says Ian, 29.

“We do puppacinos for the furry friends as well!

“We like to see people arriving to the van for a quality cup of coffee and a meet-up with friends.”

Ian tells us a bit about the name of the new business venture.

“Fadó is Gaelic for ‘long time ago’ which is often associated with story-telling. So it’s good people can take time out to swap stories and chat together over a coffee. It is sociable.”

Ian’s late mother, Deirdre, had a big part to play in the converted vintage coffee van, formerly a creperie outlet in Holland that became the retro mobile expresso bar aptly called Fadó.

“My mum was my biggest supporter when it came to Fadó,” says Ian.

“She passed away suddenly in March, I really miss her. Herself and dad came with me to collect the van when I had it transported over from Holland. Mum was integral to the creative process so I’m very proud of what we have achieved so far.

“The whole journey is for her really, it’s what keeps me going. I’m just sorry she never got to see Fadó completed or to see the end product.”

No doubt Deirdre would have delighted at the idea of her son opening his own business with his friend, Peter.

“I think she would have been proud,” says Ian.

“And she had a big part to play in it. I know she’s looking down on us and looking after us, and that she is happy.”

Ian and his mother had a special bond.

“We were very close and she was my guiding light. It was my mother who encouraged me to pursue this venture,” says Ian.

“I had already made a start on the van when my mum passed away.”

Ian had a purpose.

“It was around that time when I really threw myself into working on the renovation and I found that helped me through a very tough period,” he says.

Deirdre will always be remembered with love and fondness.

One of the Fadó coffee cups, which has Ian's mum's fingerprint incorporated in the logo.
One of the Fadó coffee cups, which has Ian's mum's fingerprint incorporated in the logo.

“Our logo is actually a tribute to her memory,” says Ian.

“It’s her fingerprint intertwined with a coffee bean. We worked with a local branding company, Magnetic Design, John and Paul were super I couldn’t recommend them enough.

“They were so helpful and they came up with the fingerprint idea entwined with a coffee bean. It is a little nod to my mum.”

Ian wasn’t always in the barista business.

“I still have my old job in the corporate wellness/ health coaching business,” he says.

“I took some time off to concentrate on Fadó. I got invested in it for the long term. Peter and I were always chatting on what we might do and we came up with the idea together.

“During Covid, there was no travelling so we said we’d try our hand at running a mobile coffee business. It has taken off very well since we opened in July.

“I say it is a coffee habit gone too far!” says Ian, laughing. But to be honest, I always had a keen interest in coffee and running my own business. Even though I didn’t do business for my Leaving Cert, I am learning the business side, customer service, accounts and tax.

“Maybe I should have done business in school! But I’m enjoying the job and the challenges it brings. I always had it in mind. It is very exciting to be running my own business. Now it’s full time, it is time-consuming.”

Ian had a lot of help from his family and friends getting Fadó up and running.

“My sister Ellen gave me great help in the van,” he says.

“She did a load of baking and I owe her a lot. Ellen was a big part of it. My brother Thomas was a great help too.

Ian's mum who passed away in March this year was a big inspiration to him.
Ian's mum who passed away in March this year was a big inspiration to him.

“The 1976 Peugeot van was a creperie van before and I did all the renovations with the help of carpenters and electricians to make Fadó a mobile retro coffee van. It took about four months.”

Fadó is currently open from Wednesday to Saturday from 8am until 2.30pm in St Patrick’s Woollen Mills Douglas, situated in the car park as you come in. It is a pet-friendly space with a dedicated doggy station including free treats, water and waste bags. There is a spacious outdoor seating area to swap stories with friends or chat to the staff, who will happily drop your coffee to you if the weather turns.

“We are ready for all eventualities,” says Ian. 

“We’re available to hire for events including weddings, private parties and corporate functions.”

Ian supports local suppliers.

“We focus on quality coffee, sustainability and supporting local suppliers,” he says.

“We have a variety of Cork favourites including speciality coffee roasters Badger& Dodo which is based in Fermoy, O’Connaills Hot Chocolate from Carrigaline, Barry’s tea and local milk producers from West Cork.

“We use 100% compostable cups, lids, stirrers and napkins. Our organic baked goods are delivered fresh every day.”

Is Fadó profitable?

“Right now I am paying off the van and the equipment, the coffee machine and the cabinets, for example,” says Ian.

“We believe in high quality and a high standard. You must invest to make money back.”

“It is very exciting to run our own business,” adds Ian.

“At first I was a bit nervy, but it has all worked out great.

“We are enjoying it at the moment and coming up with new ideas. Hopefully this is only the beginning.”

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