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The Gourmet Tart Company must be one of the rare operations in the country to buck the trend of closures – instead increasing their staff to meet the new demand for a newly-launched service.
All six of their shops — bakeries, coffee shop and the restaurant in Salthill — closed during the first lockdown, but that time has been used well by owners, Michelle O’Donnell and husband Fintan Hyland.
“It was all new to us, the lockdown. We felt it was safer for both our staff and customers to close as we were not clear on the safety measures or how or if we could implement them. But we all learned during that time and we made sure we would be well prepared for a safe re-opening.
“Fintan was a scientist and he was so aware of safety and health issues and we weren’t comfortable opening during the first lockdown.
“We did open after lockdown and for the current lockdown, we ensured that we would keep our staff working, which we are doing, ensuring of course that they were able to do so in a safe environment,” said Michelle.
The demand for take-out and ease of shopping via click and collect and deliveries led to Michelle and Fintan deciding on expanding a successful hampers service they provided last Christmas.
But it seems now, more than ever, the demand for home delivery services has never been higher. And with Christmas around the corner, it’s timely that the Gourmet Tart has started selling hampers a lot sooner than they had anticipated.
To experiment and see how a non-Christmas hamper would go down with local customers, they did a trial with Home Sweet Home hampers.
There was no doubt about it, when people couldn’t visit family and friends, ordering a hamper for a loved one appeared to be a lockdown staple. The Halloween Hocus Pocus hampers sold out too.
Their Salthill restaurant has been turned into a hive of activity as it is their hamper packing hub. Where once tables were filled with regular customers enjoying the menu, those same tables are now covered in bubble wrap, paper, boxes and other accoutrements needed to pack a hamper.
Another skill learned is meeting the packaging requirements of the couriers ensuring that goods arrive safely in one piece!
Hampers start at €25 plus €5 delivery charge nationwide (thanks to a deal with a courier company) and luxury ones especially for Christmas will go up to €100.
Apart from wine, most, if not all of the goods, are made in the Gourmet Tart kitchens from baking, to jams, to spices, to seed mixes, granola to relish. And the ones not made in their own kitchen are all sourced locally.
“We were determined to support local and we are thrilled to include Calendar Coffee roasted in Barna to Galway socks from Irish Socksciety, as well as tea blends from Solaris Teas, another local company.
“I think many of our customers hadn’t realised just how many products we made ourselves as most think of us as a bakery, coffee shop and restaurant. Fintan has always been experimenting in the kitchen and we are very proud of our own range of products which we are now able to use in the hampers,” she added.
Though there are a range of hamper selections on their website, Michelle, says that people can email and custom make their order. Cookies, bars, Christmas cakes, pecan snowballs and macaroons all travel well for hampers making their way further afield in the country. But the main thing for the business, Michelle stresses, was being able to hold onto their staff during this lockdown — and even increasing it to keep up with the demand on their hampers.
Fintan is kept busy in the kitchen making relishes, mixing Middle Eastern spices and jams.
“We stand over our product and we are happy we were able to diversify a bit to ensure the business stays open,” said Michelle.
The Gourmet Tart now employs 70 people in its six outlets around the city and will celebrate its 20th year next year.
(Photo: Michelle O’Donnell of Gourmet Tart Co, bucking the trend).
The Connacht Tribune & Galway City Tribune – supporting local business
Allegations over Galway homeless hub that’s nominated for award
A unique social housing development in the city, which has been nominated for an award, was the subject of complaints and allegations by a resident living there.
The Westside Modular Family Hub has been shortlisted for the Irish Council of Social Housing Allianz Community Housing Awards 2021.
Opened in May last year, the purpose-built family homeless service was developed by Galway City Council and Peter McVerry Trust with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Housing Agency.
The 15 units were installed at a cost of €2 million after what Galway City Council described as, “extensive public consultation and engagement with local residents and local representatives in advance and during the project to ensure all issues of concern were addressed”.
In a press release announcing the accommodation was nominated for an award, the City Council said that, “there is strong support from the local community for the development”.
It has been nominated for an award, which is determined by public vote.
However, it has emerged that at least one resident of the hub complained to the City Council about anti-social behaviour.
The resident made allegations of drug-taking, late-night house parties and drinking, and fighting earlier this summer.
The resident detailed an alleged attack in which a woman bit another woman’s shoulder and an ambulance was required.
The complainant also said that families were not being moved-on to longer-term accommodation within six months.
The complaints were made to the Housing Department at City Hall and it’s understood they were referred on to the service-provider, Peter McVerry Trust.
A Peter McVerry Trust spokesperson said: “The service offers good quality accommodation and professional supports to homeless families. Since opening the service in May 2020 we have supported 28 families, comprising of 38 adults and 60 children and helped 13 families move into housing with a further move-on expected in the coming week.
“From time to time issues do arise within the service, and PMVT staff will speedily and assertively respond to such issues to support and protect all residents as best we can. We have 24/7 staff supports on site, intensive key worker assistance and household specific care plans in place. Ultimately, our priority for each family in our care at Westside is to secure a housing pathway for them in order to exit homelessness.”
Asked for comment, a City Council spokesperson said: “I am advised by colleagues in the Housing Directorate that any issues that may arise in the Hub are dealt with by Peter McVerry Trust who are the service providers of this facility and a service level agreement is in place to deal with any issues that may arise.”
When the 15 units were installed in 2020, City Councillor Colette Connolly highlighted at a Council meeting that there was a leak in the roof of some of the homes. The Council confirmed “water ingress” in windows in a number of the units, which would be rectified by the supplier at no additional cost to the local authority.
Announcing the award nomination last week, the Council said the hub was designed to “temporarily house families while they seek a long-term solution to their housing need,” with the assistance of the Peter McVerry Trust management who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It features 15 own-door two-bed and three-bed units, each with a kitchen, dining space and bathroom. There is also an on-site playground.
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport
From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.
The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.
According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.
Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.
Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.
A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.
However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.
Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.