Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manhattan Maiden Makes Dungarvan's Perfect Bagel

Dungarvan People Newspaper
By Justine Dwyer

ROSIE Sheehan arrives for our inter-view on roller blades, gliding into the Ormond restaurant like a breath of fresh air on skates!

She's carrying a battered old New York Yankees ruck sack on her back and from it she produces a bunch of Rhubarb which she hands to the owner of the restaurant. 'We have a barter-system going here,' he quips.

Quite how this Manhattan maiden managed to adapt to country living in Dungarvan is beyond me, but Rosie Sheehan possesses the glowing vitality of a country girl. Half of the 'brains' behind Broadway Bagels, Rosie and her husband Des arrived in Dungarvan Christmas 2000 with a one-year-old and three-month-old in tow They have since added to their brood with a third boy who is now four.

'Des is from Dublin; we met in New York. Neither of us had any connection with Dungarvan other than my sister had moved here with her husband in the Spring of that year and I missed her so much that we decided to move too.'

Neither of them had a background in the food industry Rosie worked for the Transport Workers' Union and Des had a construction company.

'We were looking for something to do when we came here, something different. I thought starting a construction company here with no contacts would be just too difficult.'

The thinking behind Broadway Bagels wasn't some convoluted, intricate business plan they simply missed eating what is the breakfast staple for most New Yorkers. 'We couldn't get them here. I think there was one shop in Dublin that sold them but that was about it.'

Looking back now, Rosie says they were very naive. 'We took a big risk. If I knew then what I know now I don't think I would have pursued it. We had a few very hard years. Thankfully we've turned the corner.'

When they started off it was just the two of them and a local girl, Lisa Hilton, who, eight years later is still with them, managing production. 'I made them at home at first. I made a dozen and it took six hours. Des asked me was I intending on having more than 12 customers?' she laughs.

Although, according to Rosie he had never so much as turned on an oven in his life, from then on in, he took over the baking. 'We had no money for equipment so we used a cookie cutter and a shot glass to get the shape!'

In the beginning they threw out thousands of bagels in a bid to find the perfect recipe, a secret Rosie's not willing to share. 'We threw out skiploads, literally. They were the wrong consistency Bagels should be chewy They shouldn't be doughey There has to be malt in there somewhere,' is all she will reveal.

When Rosie thinks back to when she was heavily pregnant with her third son, working all the hours God sends, seven days a week, she doesn't know how they managed.

'Now I'm glad we did it because it's finally a success but back then I wasn't so sure.' With a staff of 18, the company has certainly taken off, but Des and Rosie still go to the bakery every day to sort out any problems behind the scenes.

As a couple they've been through a lot together with the business, but it seems to have only made them stronger. 'I don't think I could've done it if Des wasn't my partner. He's my cheerleader. He's much braver than me, an optimist. He's never going to fail, no matter what he does.'

With her mom also now living in Old Parish having also moved from New York, Rosie has well and truly put down roots there. The family bought a house in Ballinamult a few years ago which she describes as breathtaking.'

'It took a few years to get used to it but now I love it here. I find comfort in the fact that we are part of a community. It's such a lovely town.

Post 9/11 was the only time she felt homesick for New York. 'We knew people who worked downtown in that area. We phoned them to make sure they were ok. Des was very homesick. It was difficult for us because it was happening to our home and we weren't there.'

Shortly after we say goodbye, Rosie texted me to say when she got back to the bakery there was a letter waiting for her to say she'd been shortlisted for The Image Magazine Entrepreneur in Business Award. 'If they saw me today on blades they would have rescinded!'

Somehow I don't think so.