Cheese lovers Jonny McDowell and Laura Bradley have just invested in a new artisan food store with a difference in Belfast on the back of their highly successful deli, Indie Fude, in Comber.
Both long-term supporters of local food and drink producers, they have opened a unique cheese and charcuterie deli on Belfast’s Ormeau Road, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares in pre-Covid-19 days.
Indie Fude 2, as the new shop is known, features a special cheese room and extensive air conditioning for maturing hundreds of cheeses from across the island of Ireland and from further afield. The Indie Fude identity was chosen to stress the independent and specialist nature of the business.
It’s also great news for Northern Ireland’s growing cadre of artisan cheese and charcuterie producers
Indie Fude in Comber has long featured most of our artisan producers including Dart Mountain in Dungiven, Mike’s Fancy Cheese in Newtownards, Kearney Blue in Castlereagh and Velocheese in Belfast. Charcuterie producers in the shop are Corndale Farm in Limavady, Ispini in Aughnacloy, Ke Nako in Ballyclare and Downpatrick’s Castlescreen Farm.
Indie Fude’s investment is another excellent example of the growth in specialist food stores here especiallyover the pandemic. Delis, farm shops, family butchers, greengrocers and smaller grocery stores have flourished as shoppers have turned to neighbourhood retailers with trusted local suppliers.
“Our business in Comber has grown strongly especially over the past year due to the increasing awareness among shoppers of the benefits from supporting local food and drink producers in terms of quality and taste,” Laura explains. “They recognise too that buying local helps preserve existing jobs and even creates new employment opportunities. We’ve added new jobs in Comber and also at the Ormeau Road store,” she adds.
A Food NI member, Indie Fude, which has been an integral part of the Comber business community for almost six years, was set up by Jonny, a chartered accountant and cheese specialist from Belfast, and Laura, who has extensive experience in hospitality, to specialise in local artisan produce.
As well as the shop in Comber, Indie Fude now has a significant on-line presence, a catering operation that covers corporate events, hosts regular supper clubs and other artisan food promotions especiallycheese presentations. In addition, the deli operates an extensive home delivery service which has grown substantially during the pandemic. An artisan food hamper business is also thriving.
The successful entrepreneurs have also supportedlocal markets around Northern Ireland, including those in Comber, Coleraine, Londonderry, and The Inns on Belfast’s Saintfield Road.
Laura continues: “We saw an opportunity to build a successful business around the exciting growth of artisan food producers here and decided to see if we could provide a springboard for them to grow.”
As a result of this commitment to local artisans, many start up food enterprises have won their first sales through Indie Fude and gone on to prosper in wider marketplaces.
They decided to invest in a new deli in Belfast when suitable premises became available. “We had been thinking about an expansion for some time to focus especially on cheese, a key element of our Comber business,” Laura explains. “While we were encouraged by a growing interest in different cheeses among shoppers here we had still to be sure about the premises and surrounding area.There’s never an ideal time to invest, and trading conditions are currently very volatile,” she adds.
They were directed towards an empty shop on the Ormeau Road by a business friend and decided to explore the area. “We quickly came to the conclusion that it was too good for us to miss. There’s a greatcommunity there for retailers and plenty of shoppers from the surrounding area. Furthermore, the road has many excellent restaurants,” she says.
Work on revamping and stocking the new shop was completed in early December and it opened last week. Response so far has been ‘immensely encouraging”, Laura says.
In addition to the cheeses, charcuterie and other artisan foods, takeaway coffee and snacks are available. “We’ll also be offering unique sausage rolls with pork from Stonebridge Farm in Crossgar, a popular supplier to the Comber shop,” adds Laura.
The three-storey premises will also support thedevelopment of other related activities such as supper clubs with top chefs showing how to cook local food.
“Overall, it’s another opportunity for us to work with the brilliant artisan businesses here and to help in marketing their excellent produce,” continues Laura.It’s a very exciting sector with lots of inspirational people who are as passionate as we are aboutartisan produce. We’ve so many brillian products in both shops.”