Thursday, February 9, 2006
By Justine O'Mahony
2006 heralds a bright future for Dungarvan based company, Broadway Bagels, which was set up by Des and Rosie Sheehan in 2001. Des is originally from Raheny and had previously worked in the construction industry in New York while Rosie, a native New Yorker, was an insurance claims processor. "We moved back in 2000 because we wanted to bring up our children here and we noticed a gap in the market for authentic bagels. Nobody was making them here. We reckoned it would be a great business to get into, lots of potential and if we didn't do it, someone else would," explains Rosie.
They spent months trying to perfect the recipe for their bagels. "In New York a bagel recipe is almost sacred. Nobody will tell you what it is. It's a very scientific process and we threw out bins of bagels before we come up with the formula we have now." They set up a bagel shop in a small mews in Dungarvan and subsequently started bringing the bagels around to various cafes and restaurants in Dublin. A year later they closed the bagel shop and decided to concentrate on wholesale. 'Something had to give. We were working flat out; I was pregnant with our third child and the shop just didn't take off. I think we were ahead of ourselves. I don't think Dungarvan was ready for it," maintains Rosie.
The Sheehan's were able to secure a distributorship for their wholesale business and from there the business finally took off. "All of our bagels are frozen, so we had to link up with a frozen foods distributor. The only problem was if you work through a distributor in the food sector you're taking away the brand identity." By summer 2003, the Sheehan's had people ringing them asking them where could they buy their bagels and so they decided to explore selling directly to the retail sector. Nearly three years later and their bagels are now being carried by most of the major supermarket chains throughout the country. "It's been a hard slog. We've had a couple of rough years where I had doubts about the business succeeding but Des never did. I've learnt that a lot of what the business is about is networking."
In 2004 Broadway Bagels moved to new premises on an industrial estate in Dungarvan and now employ seven people. "It started off with just Des, myself and a girl called Lisa Hilton and now there's seven of us. We're hoping to expand the range so there's a possibility of needing more staff," says Rosie. The company has also had interest from two other countries keen to import their bagels. "This is great but at the moment we want to concentrate on Ireland, to make sure the Irish market is being well served." 2006 looks good for Broadway Bagels. They've been nominated and shortlisted for two Business of the Year awards run by the Small Firms Association. "Things are going really well at the moment; we couldn't be happier."