The iconic Quay Co-Op on O’Sullivan’s Quay is celebrating 40 years of catering to Cork’s vegetarians, as well as being at the heart of life and social movements in Cork.
The Quay Co-op opened its doors in May 1982, and soon became the home of Cork’s first vegetarian restaurant and cafe, a food co-op, bookshop, women’s centre and creche.
The Cork vegetarian hub has employed 750 people since then, and provided a place for feminist, gay, lesbian and environmental groups to meet.
The Quay Co-op estimates that in 40 years, over a million people from all over the world have passed through their doors to grab a bite to eat, as well as debate and organise against prejudice and for equality.
Having started as a community co-operative in the 80’s during rising unemployment, founders transformed a neglected former pawnbrokers shop on O’Sullivan’s Quay into a thriving hub, carrying out the renovation work themselves.
Today the Co-op continues to be owned by its members, and employs 50 people between its vegetarian deli, bakery, wholefoods store and restaurant on O’Sullivan’s Quay, its vegetarian food-production facility on Cove Street and satellite stores in Carrigaline and Ballincollig.
To mark the 40th anniversary, the current team has recreated an iconic photo taken in 1982, which shows the members leaning out the windows across the three floors of the building while the renovation works were ongoing.
Commenting on the 40th anniversary, Co-op, Co-Founder Arthur Leahy said that they are hugely grateful to the people of Cork for their continued support. “It means so much to us,” he said.
“Reaching this milestone anniversary is down to hard work, dedication and also that spark of alternative creativity that we see in every day in the people that work here, come here and shop here. Our radical roots inform what we do to this day; they make us proud of where we work and of what we've stood for for 40 years. Today we face new challenges, none more so than ensuring that our future generations may respectfully enjoy this beautiful planet in peace,” he added.
Simon Tiptaft, General Manager of the Quay Co-op said that Ireland was a very different place when the Co-op first opened in 1982.
“It was a time of rapidly rising unemployment and many people didn’t have a voice. Hundreds of people have worked at the Quay Co-op over the years but many have stayed for decades. Our team and our members are so important to us. Our customers too are savvy forward thinkers who continually spur us on to be better, to do more for the causes that will make a better future for us all,” he said.
“As a workers co-operative we have a unique view on trading - for us it is not about profit - if we can break even while supporting jobs and the causes that matter to us, that will do just fine for the next forty years,” he added.
A special anniversary celebration will take place in ‘Upstairs at the Co-op’ restaurant on the evening of Wednesday, May 25th for supporters, suppliers and workers.