Bantry home to crafty crew and booming business community

Maeve Murphy, who founded the shop with Bernie O'Sullivan, tells us how their pop up shop has become a destination store for Irish craft lovers
Bantry home to crafty crew and booming business community

Bernie O’Sullivan and Maeve Murphy, of Forest and Flock, Bantry.

How did the business start?

In 2017, we did a pop-up shop in December for Christmas. It was Bernie and myself, and two others, Áine and Megan.

We all worked in the shop and put out a call to makers all over Ireland. It was so successful that me and Bernie thought we could do it full time. Unfortunately, one of the others was a teacher and the other was moving abroad, so it was just us.

We secured a space in the old Supervalu building, and put out a call to makers again, looking for Irish craft and design.

The word had already spread, so people were interested, and we already have 60 makers from all over Ireland on our floor and on the walls in our shop.

Where did the name come from?

We're both very into nature. We go sea swimming all year round. I love the woods too, so we wanted something double-barrelled that represented that.

The forest is Glengarriff, and the flock is the seagulls, and the artists as well. That's Bantry: the forest lined against the sea.

What do you offer in store?

We have over 30 local makers, and the rest are from all over the country.

It can range from woodturning to ceramics, and tableware to ornaments.

We also have art on the walls, with printings, paintings, and mixed media.

We sell a selection of Irish music as well, the things we listen to ourselves.

We hold intimate events to build up a relationship between the customer and the artist.

We've had Inni-K, an artist from Kildare, perform in the shop, and we have Bella, Polly, and The Magpies, a folk band with Celtic traditions, performing on March 23rd.

It's quite a large shop, but it's quite intimate too.

When people walk into the shop, they really connect with the makers.

What's it like working in Bantry?

It's like a firework has gone off in West Cork and Bantry.

We get a lot of local customers, but a lot of tourists too.

Bantry seems to be booming. We thought it would drop off after the summer season, but the tourists have kept on coming.

We're open seven days a week, so the Sunday spin is a big thing for us, when people out on their drive drop in.

We get people across the border from Kerry and all over Cork. People want to experience the shop, and it is an experience.

The support from the town is amazing. I'm not from here, but Bernie is. We see ourselves as adding to what is already on offer, and the town has accepted us. People come in to see how are we doing, and even bring us coffee.

Have you got staff?

It's myself and Bernie and we're very lucky to have a part-timer, Vick. She's equally as passionate as we are.

What is the craft scene like in Cork?

West Cork is definitely a melting pot of creators and makers. It just seems to be blooming all over Ireland.

We carefully curate our shop. We love everything but have to put limits on ourselves.

A product has to be the right for the shop, and the shop has to be the right fit for the product.

We really believe in everything coming through the door.

The standard is excellent.

Is social media important for your business?

We do a lot of social media. We don't have a website yet, but we are very active on Facebook and Instagram.

It's absolutely massive. People are able to connect with each other through it. We've had makers getting to know each other on our pages, and our customers can see everything.

A lady came into the shop and said she had been following us from Australia. She was moving home to Bantry and couldn't wait to come visit us.

So our reach is international.

We're lucky that the content is visually appealing, and that people want to have the connection to the craft.

What's in the future for you?

We want to get amazing at what we're doing.

It's baby steps. Were still fledglings - or saplings, if we're a forest - so we don't want to bite off too much.

We need to be realistic and go slowly, but we have big plans down the line once we build the foundations of the store.

We'll shoot for the moon and some day we'll get there.

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