This is the third in our Quarantine Q&A series; chats with some of our favourite local businesses on how they’re coping during lockdown, what they’re doing to survive, and how you can help. Know of a local foodie business that could do with a shout? Then get in touch. We are not being endorsed to cover any of these businesses – we like eating nice food and drinking good coffee and would like to continue to do so post-lockdown, so shouting about their efforts makes sense. You can check out the first in our series of Quarantine Q&As with the Pocket here, and the second with Vietnamese street food’s Madame Pho here. Taking to the stage this week is Comber’s shining star Indie Füde.
Indie Füde: those who know, know. The foodie mecca has been operating for four years now (two of those on Comber’s Castle Street) and has already established itself as the go-to destination for artisan cheese, charcuterie, chutney and more. Run by business partners Laura Bradley and Johnny McDowell, Indie Füde stocks only food from the island of Ireland, and given the pair’s dedication to working with local farmers and suppliers – as well as their enthusiasm for local produce – it’s no stretch to say that Indie Füde is Northern Ireland’s biggest champion of local food and drink.
As well as stocking butter from Dromara, fudge from Clonakilty and cheese from Ards, Indie Füde also hosts a range of events and workshops in their supper club room, with the pair hosting their own Indie Süpper Clubs as well as inviting local chefs and foodies to host events. We can confirm that at these events you will: i. eat a lot of delicious, locally-sourced (where possible) food, ii. drink a powerful amount of alcohol, iii. become best friends with whoever has the (mis) fortune of being sat at your table. Honestly – go to one of these when they’re on.
As is the case with a lot of local food businesses, Covid 90210 has interrupted the party. One of the most enjoyable parts of the Indie Füde experience is visiting the store, talking to Laura and Johnny about the products and being able to look at the produce in person – that obviously isn’t a thing right now; likewise with the supper clubs and events. Where does that leave a business?
As upbeat as ever and determined to adapt, it turns out. We spoke to Laura Bradley about the challenges of keeping the business going during lockdown, what the future looks like for Indie Füde and the importance of loyal customers.
Hi! Thanks for chatting to us. For anyone who doesn’t know, what’s Indie Füde’s deal?
Hey, thanks for having me! Indie Füde is primarily a deli in Comber, County Down. But we aren’t like any other deli! Our shelves are reserved exclusively for produce from the island of Ireland – which means everything is as local as can be. From incredible cheese and charcuterie; to the finest grass fed Dexter Beef; bean to bar chocolate, and everything in between. Artisan cheese is one of our specialities – we usually have up to 40 incredible Irish cheeses in the counter at any one time. In addition to the deli, we have our events space where we host an array of tempting demos, classes and supper clubs, hosted by ourselves and our variety of talented friends in the industry. We also have a website that ships the best of Ireland to the rest of the UK, Europe and beyond!
How are you personally finding the lockdown so far?
A little bit tough to be honest. But isn’t everyone? I am very lucky to live in the countryside with plenty of outdoor space and lots to keep me occupied – not that there’s been much time to spare whilst keeping the wheels turning at Indie Füde! When I catch myself feeling too negative and emotional, I try to remind myself how fortunate I am; both in my personal situation, and in the fact that everyone I care for is well – even if I’d really rather like to be able to touch them!
“When I catch myself feeling too negative and emotional, I try to remind myself how fortunate I am.”
A lot of businesses within the sector are understandably struggling because they usually rely on getting people into a cafe or shop. Has the fact that Indie Füde offers things like hampers and gift baskets helped lessen the impact somewhat?
Our hampers and gift baskets have always been a popular option; both online and in the deli. And with many people having to spend time apart, we have seen many gorgeous bundles of stunning produce sent all across the UK and Ireland. We are very fortunate to already have had a well-established website for many years, meaning it was natural for some of our customers to move in that direction.
We also reacted quickly to the increased demand for home delivery, and developed an additional area to our website where we have a ‘Home Delivery & Click and Collect’ order form. This has enabled us to offer fresh produce alongside some of our shop staples, with free delivery to the local area: helping people to stay at home, yet still stay well fed!
Q – Do you find that people are more keen to support local now compared to ‘before’?
It’s hard to know. We have certainly acquired a few new customers over the past couple of months. But I believe people’s appreciation of the sheer quality of our local food has been on an upwards trajectory for some time now. And rightly so!
“…making the right decision for yourself and your family is so important.”
Are there any of your local suppliers doing great things at the moment in particular?
Every last one is doing a brilliant job in extremely testing times. I am really proud of so many of them, for so many different reasons. Many are doing a stellar job of carrying on, and providing me with incredible produce for my home deliveries. Having said that, some have had to take the decision to take a step back from producing for the moment. With small family businesses it’s always important to remember that everyone is trying their best, with little or no additional support. And just making the right decision for yourself and your family is so important.
As well as local produce, you guys are known for your supper clubs and food tours – have you thought about how those will look in the short/medium term?
Unfortunately, I can’t see much of either happening in 2020.
We had big plans for food tours this summer – with a particularly special day trip around the stunning Strangford Lough all but finalised. However I think they’ll be on the back burner until 2021 now.
Our Supper Club room is marvellous, and its size is part of its charm – but it means we won’t be able to offer these special nights until it is safe to say social distancing is a thing of the past. And with Supper Clubs always put on hold for the busy festive period, we will be lucky if we manage to fit a couple in during the early Autumn. One thing is for certain though – we will all be delighted when we can get back to showcasing our gorgeous produce in this special way!
“…our biggest challenge has probably been the fact that our small team has been cut in half…”
We seem to be in a phase now where lots of local businesses are starting to offer click and collect, home deliveries etc – what has been the biggest challenge for Indie Füde during this period?
It was a bit of a challenge setting up our Home Delivery and Click & Collect offering to start with, particularly as it is outside of our normal offering and comes with its own host of challenges. Who knew that houses could be so hard to find?! Even with the current address?!
But our biggest challenge has probably been the fact that our small team has been cut in half due to the need for two members to stay at home to stay safe. Not only does it make an already trying time even more of a juggle – but it puts extra emotional strain on the remaining staff members. Thankfully, Hollye and Matt have both been absolute stars from day one. I’m not sure what I would have done without them!
Q – Do you have any favourite go-to lockdown recipes?
Anything I can throw in the slow cooker in a rush, and return home to it being ready to devour! Our black beef dexter is raised on the farm land surrounding Rowallane Garden in Saintfield. Slow grown, on lush mixed pasture – it’s no surprise that this beef injects a wonderful depth of flavour into any dish.
“…engaging with local companies on social media is a great way to show your support.”
Q – What can people do from home if they want to support you?
If you aren’t currently in the position to make a purchase – engaging with local companies on social media is a great way to show your support. Every like, share and/or comment amplifies their voice. And allows other people to discover them.
Q – What’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing post-lockdown?
It’s the little things you miss the most isn’t it? An early morning walk on the beach. A coffee I’ve not made myself. And despite not usually being a particularly ‘cuddly’ person – there’s a small number of people I can’t wait to get my hands on!
Check out Indie Füde‘s online store here.
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