The Pantry has been operating successfully for 38 years, being one of the first cafes to arrive on the streets of Kilkee in 1982.
Developed and improved over the years by owner Imelda Bourke, the deli and café come food shop prides itself on producing wholesome foods from local ingredients. Like many businesses facing the challenges of COVID-19, Imelda has taken time to step back and assess her business. “Crisis drives innovation,” Imelda tells, adding, “I had to have a creative response and inspire my business”.
In June, Imelda decided to change to a food hall, admitting that the adaptation has been a tremendous success. This involved more products, more variety and an eclectic take-away menu. Fastidious about food, Imelda arrives on the premises every morning at 5:30am to start making the bread and scones. During the summer, she was joined by 30 other employees that she had trained over the years. “It was important that everything had to be bagged and labelled due to Covid. The food hall allowed customers to feel safe. Since the beginning of the second lockdown, we have been doing tailor made food boxes and hampers. That is the aim of The Pantry, everything here is made on the premises.”
Pride is a huge part of the philosophy at the Pantry. “We taste everything, we check everything, our quality is always consistent here,” Imelda admits. Fish pies, lasagnes, salads as well as crab meat and prawns all feature on a flush and variety filled food menu. Baking has always been a success, Imelda imparts, detailing that, “we make up to six different varieties of scones every morning. People were able to come in then with the food hall, buy their breads and their scones for their breakfast. Our other successful products are jams, relishes, chutneys. Our quality is always consistent which is the secret of success here. The carrot cake is one of the best in Ireland.”
One of the ways in which Imelda has navigated the crisis has been through the development of The Pantry’s website. Availing of the LEO trading online voucher, Imelda emphasises the power of imagery in bolstering The Pantry’s presence online, “I felt that we were doing a good quality product, so to keep the standard, you need a good quality photo.” Imelda hired photographer John Kelly to take professional videos and images for her website. Since the second lockdown, there has been a huge interest in her live cooking sessions on Instagram and Facebook. With the winter nights, people are more ready for it this time, she asserts. Social media has been the main drive for Imelda this year, providing the perfect platform to market The Pantry.
“To have a good quality product you have to be prepared to put the effort in and pay the little bit of expense at the beginning for the product to be good. It’s like the ingredients. We don’t buy cheap and it’s the same with our website.”
West Clare is a tight-knit community, Imelda tells. Loop Head Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce has seen a growth in membership and The Pantry is delighted to be a part of the learning curve brought about by the pandemic. The local ethos revolves around good quality products and experiences to be available in the area. On the collective conscience of business owners in Kilkee, Imelda states, “We all work together. There’s a fantastic team spirit there, if I’m in trouble, I can ring my neighbour. We don’t look on different businesses and restaurants as competition. We are all in it together and as a result the town has grown.”
Imelda’s eye is on the future, hoping to continue to develop the Food Hall. For more information visit www.pantrykilkee.ie.