Friday 23 March 2018

The family business brewing up a storm in the heart of Dingle

Young entrepreneur Justin Burgess started the chic Bean in Dingle to bring an urban-style, quality coffee culture to the West Kerry peninsula, writes Joanna Kiernan

Local support has been key to the success of Bean in Dingle. Above, barista Georgia Burgess, the ‘heart and soul’ of the shop. Photo: Don McMonagle
Local support has been key to the success of Bean in Dingle. Above, barista Georgia Burgess, the ‘heart and soul’ of the shop. Photo: Don McMonagle
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

There is little doubt that Ireland has experienced something of a coffee revolution over the last five years, but for non-urban dwellers, finding good coffee can often be the Holy Grail.

Enter Justin Burgess (25) who is on a mission to bring big city-style coffee quality to the west of Ireland. With its own signature blend of the finest single estate coffee beans, Justin's coffee bar, Bean in Dingle, is steadily earning itself a top notch reputation among caffeine aficionados, both nationally and internationally.

Since Bean in Dingle's grand opening last June, Justin, his brother and business partner Luke (26) and their sister and barista Georgia (21), have been tirelessly catering to thousands of coffee lovers from both near and far, and even outside of Dingle's lucrative tourist season, there has been no dampening in the demand for their unique brew.

"Initially, last Christmas we had decided upon doing a coffee wagon venture; so we moved forward and started looking toward what sort of coffee we would like to use," Justin explains.

"I had quite a lot of experience as a barista because I worked for Murphy's Ice-cream for eight years and in doing so I became one of their head baristas and trained the majority of their staff, so that is where my love of coffee really started."

"We decided upon using Badger & Dodo as our coffee supplier for our coffee wagon; I rang Brock Lewin there to discuss it and we were on the phone for about two hours talking about coffee," Justin laughs.

This phone call cemented a solid working relationship between the two coffee fanatics, and eventually resulted in Brock agreeing to craft a unique, signature blend of his coffee for Bean in Dingle - a first for the Badger & Dodo coffee company.

"Badger & Dodo normally do just their own house blends and supply those to other coffee shops and cafes, but I think as we were talking for so long Brock realised how interested I was in creating something very special and different," Justin says.

The resulting Bean in Dingle blend consists of three beans; Brazil Ipanema, Guatemala San Juan and the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe.

"Once we got our blend sorted we knew that we were going in the right direction," Justin explains.

But while their product was certainly on point, getting it to the Bean in Dingle customers was problematic with just the coffee van.

"We had quite a few hiccups with the van; there are public trading restrictions in Dingle, so you would have to go on to private property to trade and it started to fall through," says Justin.

By sheer serendipity, however, a property became available for lease on Dingle's Green Street at just the right time. Confident in his product, Justin jumped at the chance to give Bean in Dingle the opportunity to thrive.

"I went ahead and rang the landlord and within three weeks we had signed the lease and got the keys and we started the process of turning it into what it is now," Justin says. "My mum is very good at interior decorating, it's a hobby of hers, so I told her the idea - that I wanted it to feel very communal, but spacious and I left it in her very capable hands.

"It took about a month to get the shop fully fitted and then we opened on June 1, 2015. When we first opened it was a little bit of a shock," Justin recalls. "We were very, very busy - it was overwhelming the amount of local support we got, so many people came in.

"It just felt right, even from day one we knew we were doing something good here, not just for ourselves, but for the community too."

Local businesses have also been in key in supporting Bean in Dingle's very successful first few months trading.

"The summer itself was fantastic, we couldn't have wished for anything more - from locals to tourists and the tour guides giving us a good mention - we were just delighted. We open quite early in the morning at 8:30am, which is earlier than anywhere else in Dingle opens, so we have a lot of people who are up and about early and they'll come in as they wander around to pick up a coffee and a pastry too," Justin explains.

"At the start we just had the coffee, but now we are working with two local bakeries - Bácús, which does some cinnamon rolls, brioche buns and tarts and also Blúiríní Blasta, which does some breakfast muffins and sausages rolls and other things, so we have a really good selection of food now too.

"The word-of-mouth factor is really big in Dingle and other businesses will send people down to us all of the time. Thankfully we have established a great reputation, quite fast for having excellent coffee and a really relaxed atmosphere, which is very in keeping with the overall vibe in Dingle.

"There is one size cup throughout and we have just a flat white, cappuccino, a latte, an americano, an espresso - so it's quite a simple menu and that puts people at ease I think," Justin says.

"The atmosphere in the shop is great; it is the one thing which I suppose you can't really plan for and it is possibly just because it is a family run business and we are quite approachable people.

How about marketing the shop?

"We haven't really pushed any sort of promotion - apart from having a Facebook page and Instragram account - but something we did concentrate on was to make sure we had quite striking takeaway cups. Dingle is quite a small town so if you see someone holding a Bean in Dingle cup and you like good coffee, you won't have to search very long to find us and that has worked out really well for us."

Justin's passion for coffee is the driving force behind Bean in Dingle, however, his family have been hugely supportive of the venture; his parents Alan, a local barber and Jackie, who manages a nearby nursing home, moved to Dingle with their three children from Oxford, following a family holiday in 2003. Over 13 years later, Justin's parents provided the initial start-up funding for the shop in which all three of their children now work.

"My mother and father financed the business and we are so grateful to them for it," Justin explains. "They gave us the funding to get up and running for day one; to kit out the shop and buy the coffee machine and after that the business took over and began paying for itself so we didn't have to go to the bank for loans."

Justin's sister Georgia (whom he describes as "the heart and soul of the place") works in Bean in Dingle as a barista, and in August, their brother Luke, who received a first-class honours degree in Business Information Systems from UCC, returned home to become Justin's partner in the business.

"At first I didn't really think about the fact that there was a gap in the market in Dingle for really good coffee," Justin admits. "In my mind I just really loved the idea of pushing out the coffee boat in Dingle and trying to bring that same quality, which you might find in the very big city coffee houses in Dublin or Cork, down here.

"Dingle has always had a very good foodie network and reputation for food, but I didn't feel there was the same with coffee. There are some places that do nice coffee, but no real dedicated coffee shops, so that is where we stepped in - and even after eight months, it's clear now that there was definitely a gap in the market there and that's why we have had such success."

But it's not just the products that have to be perfect. Running a business demands a certain level of professionalism.

"Luke has really taken on the role of keeping everything in check financially and as a result the business is running really well," Justin explains.

"Our differences really compliment one another and we learn from each other constantly; I will show him how to make really good coffee and he shows me what is working for us in the business sense and what might not be, and what changes we might need to consider.

"I didn't really have a business plan at first, but we now have a five-year plan which will see us opening maybe one or two more shops, possibly in Killarney or somewhere equally in the tourist market."
However, Bean in Dingle is just as popular with the locals as it is with visitors.

"We were incredibly busy during the summer and since the tourist season finished we have had a lot of local trade, particularly from business owners who may be too busy to come in during the season," Justin says.

"All through the winter we have had a lot of locals in every day and they can sit as long as they want, enjoying their coffee. We even have a few customers, who come in and at this stage Luke and myself could tell you the exact time that they'll walk in the door every day," smiles Justin.

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