Bringing Quality Coffee to Market
Architects turned baristas Stephen Deasy and Ruth Hussey have placed a strong emphasis on producing high quality artisan coffee without the snobbery. Better Business paid a visit to their coffee shop Bear Market in Dublin’s Blackrock.
Could you give us some background on Bear Market and the motivation behind opening the coffee shop?
Ruth and I graduated from architecture in 2009. We spent a brief period as aspiring architects before we soon realised that we would need to emigrate if we were to find a job in the industry.
Spotting a need for high quality gluten free products Ruth set up Pure Food Bakery in Blackrock with her mother Mary in 2011, which turned out to be a huge success with their products becoming available in a number of Ireland’s leading retail stores. At the same time I dived headfirst into the hospitality industry and founded Epi Hostels with my cousin. Unfortunately, on the brink of securing a partnership with a large private equity firm, the Greek economy collapsed which cast all EU wide investments in doubt.
On the back of the success of Pure Foods we noticed that people were interested in high quality artisan products. Bear Market Coffee was born from our passion for all things quality.
We worked in conjunction with fellow classmates VAV Architects to create the store’s rugged design, the style a nod to the economic environment from which the business was born and is perhaps a measured reaction to the slick, elaborate décor of the bygone Celtic Tiger era.
We both trained as baristas but despite our coffee knowledge we adamantly shun the notion of coffee snobbery. At Bear Market we firmly believe that consumers deserve a good quality product without the intimidation. Bear Market prides itself on producing the best quality artisan espresso accompanied by freshly baked pastries, scones and cake slices.
Where did the name ‘Bear Market’ come from?
It’s a cheeky nod to the financial term to which our architecture careers and hostel project had fallen victim, which in turn led us to the adventure that is Bear Market coffee.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an SME?
Finding the most suitable property was a big struggle. The location of any business is paramount, especially in the take out coffee industry where volume is key. Now as we search for our second store we are finding it difficult to secure the right location at acceptable rental levels. Opportunities are out there, but it’s vitalto carry out as much research on each location as possible.
What would you say sets your business apart in your sector?
Atmosphere and customer service within Bear Market Coffee is key to our success. We focus on delivering a high quality product and service to all our customers, brightening their day. We were awarded for our customer service recently at the JCI Business Awards 2015.
We believe that education is also intrinsic to our success and this is achieved both formally and informally through impromptu coffee conversations over the counter or within one of our structured coffee classes. We believe that the more knowledgeable our customers are, the more they will appreciate the lengths we go to in providing them with the perfect cup.
What has been your biggest success so far?
The most pivotal decision we have made to date has been to partner up with other specialists. Bear Market coffee is first and foremost a coffee retailer. We very quickly realised that if we could create strategic partnerships with other complimentary professional businesses it would allow us to block out external noise and focus on the customer. So instead of trying to do everything ourselves we have outsourced a number of products/areas within the business.
On the front end the most obvious example would be our partnership with our primary coffee roaster Alan Andrews as well as a number of other specialty coffee roasters. It gives us great confidence to know that our key products are being supplied to us with rigorous quality controls.
We pride ourselves in offering the best quality products across the store. By partnering with specialised companies in each sector such as food, coffee, equipment and drinks, we always have a huge selection of new artisan Irish products to offer. This in turn provides a sustainable supply chain, supporting local jobs and resources.
The same can be said for the back end of the business. We found that we fell into the same trap as a number of small businesses, trying to run our day to day business while attempting to do all our accounting and bookkeeping work. We finally succumbed to a mountain of paperwork and discovered how invaluable a good bookkeeper and accountants really are.
What key piece of advice would you give someone starting a business?
Start with lots of research into the sector, your product offering and your customer base. Research owes you nothing, look at it from every angle and question everything, especially yourself.
Spend at least as much time interviewing potential staff as you would researching your key equipment. Your staff is potentially your most valuable asset or at worst your greatest liability, give them the time and direction they deserve.
Don’t be afraid of change, it is essential to constantly adapt. It’s not uncommon for our customers to walk into our shop and say ‘wow, the space has changed so much since the last time I was in’.
Finally, enjoy it!
Where do you source your coffee?
We source it from a variety of Irish micro roasters including Silverskin Company, Coffee Culture, Bailies Coffee and Coffee Mojo.
Ireland has developed a strong coffee culture in recent years. What do you think have been the main factors behind this?
People have been travelling and experiencing great coffee abroad, especially in places like Australia, New Zealand and London. This has developed a more discerning customer that likes to enjoy a barista made artisan cup of coffee produced to high standards.
Any news or expansion plans for 2016 you can share with us?
We plan to open a new store in the coming months with hopefully more Bear Market stores across Dublin within the next few years. We believe that our online store will be one of our strongest revenue streams over the coming years so we are investing heavily in this with the intention of expanding our delivery service from nationwide as it currently stands to worldwide within the next year.