Deli with a Difference – Indie Füde is a deli, but not like any other…
NR talks to Laura Bradley about how our passion for indigenous food from independent producers is going through the roof – and the only way is up, for the small company that’s driving forward the deli experience, while supporting small producers across Ireland.
It all started off in a little attic in Comber, County Down.
“It all started with my business partner, Johnny McDowell. He had a period of ill health and decided to take a career break to recover fully. During that time, he did some travelling around Ireland and realised just how many brilliant small producers were making excellent products that were not easily accessible to the general public.” said Laura. “Johnny really wanted to be able to get his hands on these products at home, share his new found discoveries with others, and in turn support these incredible people making world class products – and the rest is history!’
“Johnny began with a website – working from the attic in his parents’ house – with just ambient products. He set it up quite naively – he knew it was a great idea but had little knowledge on how to build a successful online business, how to build up your SEO* and get traction with social media and so on..
“So he took the bull by the horns and headed out and about talking to people, visiting local markets and that really opened our eyes.”
Wide eyed, inspired and fired up – but with no retail business experience – Indie Füde was born, blending two words – indigenous and independent – with a twist on the word ‘food’ to make a smiley face on the U! That injected a little bit of fun in to the brand – and it took off from there.
“He began in a local market, face to face and meeting people, it quickly became apparent there was potential for a pop-up shop” said Laura. “Johnny opened the Comber shop which was meant to be just for Christmas 2015 – with a huge demand for hampers, which were promoted on the website, social media, and with a few excellent TV and radio mentions”
Quality local produce
It was around this time that Laura met Johnny – they both shared a passion for quality local produce. Laura joined the business in May 2016 and it’s quite literally taken off from there. A few years later they moved in to a larger store in Comber.
“We were tucked away in a courtyard – a well suited and beautiful starting place – but we needed something bigger to grow in to. We wanted more space for not only more great products, but to continue to bring in cheesemakers and hold our ever popular tastings. We really needed a bigger space to showcase all fabulous Irish cheese!,” explained Laura “So three years ago we upped sticks round the corner to Castle Street. With a seating area, much expanded pantry and a large deli counter specifically to showcase our artisan Irish cheese and charcuterie!”
Indie Füde now has two outlets – with a new shop open on Ormeau Road a few weeks before Christmas last year – primarily as a cheese shop at first.
“We wanted the space to be something really special. We decided to turn the unit into a big chiller, with an air conditioning unit – meaning we could happily house big wheels from all over Ireland. They also look rather impressive on their purpose built shelving too. The cheese is the focus here – it’s our ‘Cheese Edition’. Though there’s also a great coffee offering with snacks, buns and some retail shelves,” said Laura. “We found the building just before Covid struck so it was a bit tricky at first.
“It’s a beautiful three storey town house – and so far, is going great. We have plans for the other floors in time. We’d been talking about opening a cheese shop in Belfats for some time, and felt it was important to have a presence in Belfast – the Ormeau Road is a real hive of independent retailers – and they are thriving. We’ve had great support from the neighbouring retailers. It’s a wonderful community”
So much scope
The two other floors have so much scope for development and potential – with plans for cheese tasting events, food tours and plentiful other ideas.
“There’s a real push towards getting people back into locally owned stores. All of our product is 100% indigenous – cheeses, chutneys, oils, hot sauces, biscuits, charcuterie, beef, pork – all from local farmers and small independent producers.
“Even our hummus is made locally in the authentic style, by a Palestinian man, Hani, who has made his home in Carrickfergus. There’s so many world flavours available – but all made here. For example, charcuterie is not seen as typically Northern Irish but people are really embracing the idea of continental style sharing platters.”
Another innovative idea that’s totally taken off is wedding cheesecakes and cheesecakes for birthdays and other occasions.
“There’s such a demand for speciality cheeses now – people want to sample, try and buy. Cheese is also becoming increasingly popular for gifts, corporate gifts and hampers at Christmas – which all have the benefit of keeping money in the local economy” said Laura.
2022 should see plenty of Indie Füde events – shining a light on the culinary delights of local areas.
“The Strangford Lough area has so many amazing local producers and venues – many undiscovered beyond the locals. We would hope to have our Strangford Food Tours up and running again – along with developing other plans for supper clubs and tastings in both Comber and Belfast” said Laura.
“We’ve been so fortunate in finding the right staff – people who share our vision and are passionate about locally produced, quality food. It’s what has allowed us to continue to grow, spend our time on new areas and ideas, and inspire us too! Being able to find people who are in tune with our ethos, who are enthusiastic and share in our excitement at what we do. We’re so proud of our team across both of our branches – and are delighted to receive excellent feedback almost daily from our customers. Approachable, well informed staff are part of what makes us so different to a ‘normal shop’ – each and every member of the team loves to help someone discover something new, or make a favourite recipe ‘local’.”
*Search Engine Optimisation