It requires determination, patience and pluck. People are always willing to take a punt on their dreams and aspirations. Olen Bajarias talked to some new independent businesses in the city to gauge what it takes to set up stall in 2017.
The shops featured are almost all located in spaces once occupied by businesses that ended up not making it. 29 Stoneybatter, now Moo Market, was Tiger Tattoo Studio. 30 Capel Street, now Ayla Foods, was a hardware shop. Just like the ones that replaced them, these old businesses had, at one point, opened their doors to the public and said, ‘We’re new here.’ One hopes the similarity ends there. These new businesses seem to be of sturdier stock, in any case.
‘When you hear of all the talk about the upturn in the economy, independent businesses tend to be forgotten about,’ said Peadar Rice, founder and co-owner of SmallChanges. ‘It’s all about multinationals coming back to Ireland. But it was the independent businesses that stayed throughout the recession and helped to grow the economy to a stage where there was enough stability for the multinationals to come back.’
One big reason why small, independent businesses stayed, of course, was because they had to. Unlike multinationals, they had nowhere else to go. But having nowhere else to go is not entirely a bad thing: staying put allows roots to grow. It’s how communities are formed.
From looking around and observing their owners interact with customers, it was apparent to me how much these four businesses have come to be a part of their local communities, and how much they have continually been supported by them. ‘I have so many people who just come in and just say, ‘‘I really wish you the best, I really hope you succeed,’’’ says Aisling Moran, of Moo Market.
Spaces such as hers function not only as places to buy and sell, but also to meet up and get together. But local support, though invaluable, can only do so much to keep these businesses alive. Something must come from up high. One wonders when there would be concrete public policy to ensure that these businesses keep going. The threat of ever-increasing rents, for example, needs to be addressed. ‘At the moment there would be over 50 different organisations and businesses here [at the ABC building],’ says Peadar. ‘Our success in Drumcondra is very much down to the fact that our landlord appreciates what we’re doing, appreciates what everyone in the building is doing.’ Needless to say, this is not the case everywhere.
Such was the state of these businesses, as I found them. But not everything I learned from their owners was tinged with a bit of anxious uncertainty. Did I know, for instance, about sprouting? Until it was mentioned at SmallChanges, as a possible series of workshops to engage the local community, I had no idea there was such a thing. Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds into sprouts, which can then be eaten raw or cooked. It involves nurturing seeds in certain ways, under certain hospitable conditions.
It requires determination, patience and pluck. The whole thing sounded to me like too many hoops to jump through for brunch, but, after having gotten to know a bit about these four small businesses, the idea of cultivating your own garden now seems quite worthwhile.
Check out what these new businesses had to say here:
Words: Olen Bajarias
Portraits: Killian Broderick