Business Irish

Thursday 19 April 2018

How Belfast startup Pure Fitout is reshaping Dublin's popular state-of-the-art venues

Angelina’s restaurant in the capital
Angelina’s restaurant in the capital
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Finding a favourite haunt when stepping out in Dublin these days is becoming ever more difficult, with a wealth of new state-of-the-art venues popping up across the city.

But whether you're meeting pals for cocktails in Sophie's, having a romantic steak for two in Tomahawk, checking out the latest Saoirse Ronan flick in The Stella Theatre - or even picking up a burrito bowl in Boojum - spare a thought for your surroundings.

Ronan Higham, Managing Director of Pure Fitout in 9 Below on St Stephens Green, Dublin. Credit: Damien Eagers
Ronan Higham, Managing Director of Pure Fitout in 9 Below on St Stephens Green, Dublin. Credit: Damien Eagers

Pure Fitout are responsible for the renovation and creation of many of the latest hot-spots across Dublin, having cultivated an on-going relationship with its client PressUp.

The Belfast-based firm, who are currently working on the refurb of Residence on St Stephen's Green and the creation of The Devlin hotel in Ranelagh, also boast the likes of chains such as student-popular Boojum and Dermot Desmond’s sons’ Five Guys in Dundrum on their client list.

The rapid growth of the firm, which only began trading in September 2015 and reported a turnover of €10m in 2017, is a success story Managing Director Ronan Higham puts down to high standards and firm relationships.

"By December 2015, we'd done a few jobs in Belfast and a few jobs in Dublin and those jobs set us up fairly well. Those jobs were finished to quite a high standard," he told Independent.ie.

The Pure Fitout team has now grown close to 50 employees, between the workshop tradesmen, office teams, on-site staff and drivers, but originally the team embarked on projects with a "pretty tight" team of just three.

"By the end of that year, we had the two jobs in Belfast and one was in Dublin, the projects were for a Boojum, a Five Guys and another PressUp project, which was Angelina's. It has really snowballed since," said Higham.

Ronan Higham, Managing Director of Pure Fitout in 9 Below on St Stephens Green, Dublin. Credit: Damien Eagers
Ronan Higham, Managing Director of Pure Fitout in 9 Below on St Stephens Green, Dublin. Credit: Damien Eagers

Read more: VIDEO: Take a sneak peek inside Dublin's newest - and unique - food hall Dollard and Co

"We've kept those clients because of the good quality of our work but also due to the good relationships we've developed with PressUp, Boojum and Five Guys. We're a pretty can-do people, if there's a problem, we'll just get around it and find a solution.

"Key to that is working alongside the designers; if we couldn't work with them, we wouldn't be successful in the projects. The most important people are obviously the clients but the designers are so, so important; we try to keep them happy."

Higham worked for another fitout firm previously, leaving in June 2015 to focus on setting up Pure Fitout. An employee with the company at the time organised an introduction with Belfast brothers David and Andrew Maxwell, who had bought the burrito chain earlier that year.

Stella cinema cocktail club in Dublin
Stella cinema cocktail club in Dublin
Ronan Higham, Managing Director of Pure Fitout in 9 Below on St Stephens Green, Dublin. Credit: Damien Eagers

"We got talking one day over a coffee and they came to us two weeks later with a set of drawings. They asked could we price it and we did so they asked us how quickly we could start. We started about a week later," said Higham.

"It was a pretty rapid turnaround but it's always like that with a fitting. A lot of clients ring you on a Friday and hope that you will start on the Monday."

Those first few months really set the stage for Pure Fitout as the company's client list continues to grow and their paw prints are on many popular eateries and bars in both Dublin and Belfast that have developed over the last two years.

It was the first Five Guys project, in Victoria Square in Belfast, that the then small team created believe helped catapult its success.

"This was probably one of my favourites. While we love all of our clients, The Five Guys is very corporate, it's a huge machine.

"For a company like us, who were only going a few months, we got the opportunity to do that project and we did it really, really well.

"The owners were over and highly commending the job we had done and the time we completed it in. I think we had it finished in seven weeks, working 24/7 in order to get it open for Christmas. That made us."

Read more: First Look: Are you ready to sink your teeth into Dublin's newest steakhouse Tomahawk?

Looking forward, border issues might be causing some concern for many firms who face the ongoing uncertainty of what a post-Brexit world will bring, but Higham has no such worries.

"Brexit is a bit of a crystal ball for everyone. Who knows what will happen. I'm forever optimistic, we can all live in the doom and gloom, but I expect good things from it," he said. 

"There's a lot of companies going to Dublin, there's a huge market in Dublin for the business we're in. We've a few office projects on the go in Belfast and in Dublin. There's a vast amount of work there, a great pipeline and it's only going to get busier."

As the face of Dublin changes, creating contemporary and aesthetically pleasing venues that compete with on-trend places in cities like New York or London, Mr Higham acknowledges the desire for unique design.

"Everything we do in the workshop, in the metal and the joinery workshop and in the in-house spray shop; every single thing for every project is bespoke. There's no production line," he said.

"But it's the designers that make us look good. We can take all the glory as we're doing the work but they make us look brilliant as it's their designs that we bring to life."

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