This is kinda our first year in De Búrca in photos – it looks like it happened all in one week. But it happened over nights and weekends and two days closed for business in October. It was a mad year. We’re happy it happened and we’re happy it’s over! Settling in now. Thanks to everyone that helped us.
This last weekend, our shop was one year old. To say that time has flown would be an understatement, but it still feels like we have been on Main Street for a very long time. But not quite as long as a butchering business has been in the building it seems.
We started looking into the history of the building as soon as we started our lease on the 4th of April 2014. We didn’t get very far as things like digging up floors and tiling took up most of our time. The previous occupant, and our current landlord, Martin McHale, had been in the shop since 1976 and he ran it as McHale’s Butchers. We knew that the Flannelly family had been in it prior to that and we are very grateful to Patrick Flannelly, who ran it as a butcher shop before Martin, for coming in to us those first few weeks to give us information on his family history in the building. He gave us a copy of the front page of the Connaught Telegraph from June 1st 1889 which displayed an advertisement for the shop, then run by his grandfather.
He also had a photograph, or part of a photograph, taken of the building next door which at that time was a pharmacy. The photograph happened to capture the panel that the shop has on the left hand side of the front, which historically was used for advertising. It clearly shows that the Flannelly family business was established there in 1812.
It’s a lot of history between four walls which we love! I wonder was it a butcher shop before that? And what was Main Street like in 1812? If anyone has any information, we would greatly appreciate it. More than anything, we would treasure a photo of the shop front from those long ago days.
In the meantime, this Saturday 18th April, we are having a party in the shop during the day, to celebrate our relatively short time here on Main Street – there will be plenty of sausage tastings as we are introducing some new recipes: Apple, Cider and Sage; Wild Garlic; and what we call the ‘Breaffy Blue Banger’, which is a blue cheese and plum sausage.
We would like to thank everyone who has given us much needed help this last year, our families and friends, the supportive people of Main Street and our wonderful customers.
Call in on Saturday – we would love to see you.
(First published in The Western People 13th April 2015)
When people see the De Búrca logo for the first time, we are always asked ‘Why the flying pig?’
It started in Nenagh, Tipperary. We felt we were going nowhere in terms of work. I was employed with the HSE as a Medical Scientist and Sean was a butcher working in a local shop. We were living in a modest house and the girls were in a crèche all day. We had always talked about opening our own shop… for years. We are real foodies. We did everything except open the shop – we had a blog and practiced our sausage recipes. I suppose we were afraid of doing it because most people would think that it would be a crazy thing to do to give up ‘good’ jobs in a recession. But we didn’t feel we were getting anywhere productively in our work, and we weren’t happy and we wanted something more and there’s nothing like having young children to focus your mind on what’s really right for them also.
I spoke to Sean around Christmas time 2013 about ‘THE SHOP’ and I stated categorically that we had to do something and that I wanted to move and do it in 2014. I stated that my new year’s resolution was to open a shop in Castlebar and to be up to our eyeballs in turkeys in 12 months’ time.
‘Pigs will fly’ Sean said.
I went shopping for Sean’s Christmas present the week before Christmas, and went into a new shop that had opened in Nenagh (called Twenty-six) and there , inside the door, was a small silver flying pig, which I promptly bought and gave to him on Christmas day. He was still sceptical.
We were in Castlebar for New Year’s Eve. It’s Sean’s home town, and we always felt it might be a good place to open our kind of shop. We were driving through the car park on New Year’s Day, and Martin McHale and his son were making a delivery of meat to the back of their shop. We had heard rumours that Martin was thinking of retiring. We plucked up to the courage to drive up and talk to him. It was more than a bit nerve-wracking. He took our number and he put it into his wallet, which Sean said was a good sign. Three weeks later he called. We could lease it if we still wanted it.
The shop was….old school. It needed work to renovate it to how we wanted it and we had no money. It took some convincing to get the loan from the bank. We barely got enough to do the work piece meal. But we were granted the loan and Sean started in the shop on Friday the 4th of April. I was supposed to stay on in Nenagh working in the HSE. But Sean and I never worked well apart. So I handed in my notice on Monday 7th of April.
Renovation work started in the evenings and on weekends, while we kept the shop open and worked on getting our suppliers right and building a few customers. We are a whole animal butcher shop. We buy in whole animals, age the meat appropriately on the bone, and butcher it in the traditional way. We’re big into local. We wanted to do it right. The shop was finally finished in October and we had our launch on the 13th. It was a great night.
There were a few surprising things along the way: we were regional finalists for the Bank of Ireland entrepreneurial start-up of the year awards in the food and drink category. We didn’t get any further than that, but it was such a boost in July to get that recognition. We are shortlisted for Gradam Gnó awarded by Gnó Mhaigh Eo, and the award ceremony is in January 2015 – so fingers crossed.
The real boost came at the end of November when we received notice from John and Sally McKenna that we are to be included in the 2015 McKenna guide – we are so thrilled at this as we have so much respect for the McKennas and feel that their guide celebrates everything that we are trying to achieve.
As for the flying pig – we incorporated it into our logo as a reminder to always go for it, regardless.
Re-post of article published her in October 2014.
Below is the extract of what has been published in the press since we’ve opened. Because it is mishmash of what I’ve submitted to the press and what has been published, I won’t quote anyone, but it’s pretty true (except for the bit about me dancing on the block naked at the launch):
Seán Bourke and Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin had talked about opening their own butcher shop for a very long time. The conversation started in earnest on their honeymoon in Normandy where they had rented a cottage on the outskirts of a small town called Coutances. Every afternoon they used to go to the local butcher shop in the town. They could get loin pork chops on the bone, rind on or shin of beef or a rib of beef on the bone with a lovely spattering of yellow fat. And the meat tasted really good. They remembered meat like it from when they were children and they wondered why they couldn’t get these cuts so readily in Ireland anymore.
Seán had trained as a butcher in Castlebar before moving to Dublin with Sarah in 1998 where she studied Biomedical Science. Seán worked in Troy’s Butcher Shop on Moore Street and in Dugpak on the North Strand Road. They both then moved to Nenagh in Tipperary in 2001 where Sean worked in Hanlon’s butcher Shop and Sarah worked as a Medical Scientist with the HSE. The conversation continued about meat and their own butcher shop.
Nenagh was too small for another butcher shop and so they looked back home to the west. Seán is a local from Breaffy and Sarah is from Loch con Aortha in Connemara. They looked at Galway and at Mayo and finally settled on Castlebar. They were originally interested in premises just off Main Street but thankfully that didn’t work out, because they took a chance and walked into McHale’s on Main Street to chat with Martin and to say to him that if he was ever thinking of renting the shop that they might be interested. He took their number, and three months later in January 2014, he called. It was only a matter of weeks before the lease was signed and Sean started work in the shop on Friday the 4th of April. Sarah was to stay in Nenagh with their two little girls until things got up and running in the shop. However, it became clear on that Friday that this was something they were going to do together as a family. Sarah handed in her notice to the HSE the following Monday and she and the girls joined Sean in Castlebar two weeks later. The renovation of the shop started almost immediately. They couldn’t afford to close the shop to renovate so they spent nights and weekends working to reorganise the layout to suit the very clear vision they had for De Búrca’s. Sarah had been gathering images and photos of shops and renovation ideas since their honeymoon in 2007 for their own shop one day – alot of the ideas have now being implemented. They wanted to open a shop that was sustainable in terms of meat – in other words they buy in locally reared whole animals on the bone and used the whole animal nose to tail. They are very close to reaching their target of complete sustainability. Chicken is a stumbling block for them in this aim because customers want more chicken fillets than what they can afford to buy in whole. Developing their processing side has helped them in being more sustainable in terms of meat because it allows them to use the whole animal more easily and the wonderful by-products of this are their sausages.
They have always had a keen interest in making sausages and have practiced sausage making for years at home. It was a more daunting prospect to make sausages for the public and they wondered how they would be received. Their sausages are very meaty. They are made with the best locally-reared pork and their own spice and herb blends in natural casings. They have been experimenting with recipes for years and currently have their version of a Traditional sausage, a Cumberland sausage and a Hot Italian sausage for sale in the shop. They are currently working on a North African Merguez-style lamb sausage and a Garlic Pork sausage. In their counter you will see the usual cuts of meat, the striploin and T-bone steaks, the legs of lamb and the roasts of beef. You will also see shin of beef with a neat pile of marrow bones beside it for stews. You will see the pork loin chops on the bone and pork shoulder chops for braising. You might see an oxtail tied neatly in a circle if you’re lucky because the minute it’s put out in the counter it is sold. You can have your ox tongue plain or pickled. Seán takes great pride in his counter display and especially now as the shop is almost nearing the end of the renovation and is starting to look how they envisioned it.