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CITY TRIBUNE

Surviving and Thriving: Gourmet Tart Co getting a bigger slice of the action!

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Is your business bucking the trend during Covid? Have you found opportunity in adversity? How are you doing your best to survive and thrive despite the pandemic? Tell us your story by emailing news@ctribune.ie. Mark it ‘Surviving and Thriving’ – and we’ll do our best to feature the good news over the coming weeks on the pages of the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.

The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.

A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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