Springisland Steps up to the Mark

Springisland Steps up to the Mark
Springisland and Rice Ice Cream Executive Emma Rice

£1.2 million investment in the Coalisland independent

Springisland is synonymous with serving the local community of the County Tyrone town since 1997. Next year will be Springisland’s silver anniversary, and the store is still set to officially celebrate the £1.2million investment that saw it increase in size from 10,000sq ft to 15,000 sq ft.

While the extension and refurbishment were completed late last year, Covid restrictions has meant it’s business as usual – but with an exciting twist.  The store has not only been extended significantly, but stayed open throughout the pandemic – with refurbishment work even ongoing through the night.”

Emma Rice is Springisland’s marketing executive and also looks after the new ice cream parlour and brand – Rice Ice Cream Parlour.

She told NR all about the new developments at Springisland.

“The refurbishment was in the planning for a few years, but was held up due to planning and building control” explained Emma. “We had to drill down one hundred feet for the foundations alone – but having the store extended to 15,000sq feet – with a brand new extension built from scratch has been fantastic including an open plan kitchen.”

The extension has also allowed for the fruit and veg area to be extended – and for a serve-over bakery counter and ice cream parlour.

“Springisland has always been well known for its fresh baked scones and breads – and we were quick to put our fresh breads and items back on the shelves for our customers after the first lockdown” said Emma.

Essential service

“The building work started in September 2019 and was progressing well when Covid hit in March 2020. Despite the pandemic, work continued – but had to stop for a few weeks. Springisland – as an essential service – was able to stay open but we closed early for a short time during the first lockdown. The work continued – sometimes round the clock – for example, when the shop closed at 10pm, the tilers would work through the night to get the work done –  from 10pm until 6am” said Emma.

“It was all completed by July 2020 – with the new open plan kitchen taking pride of place, along with new custom made refrigeration units for the kitchen cooked, ready made meals. Shopping local and getting fresh is particularly important for the Coalisland community and customers. They want  traditional, chilled home-style meals that they just need to put in the oven. These are proving very popular – like chicken and broccoli bake, lasagne, chicken curry, peppered chicken, and mince pies, all sell really well. The three for £10 range is top quality and excellent value.”

Springisland worked with Higgins refrigeration for the custom made, energy efficient refrigeration, and with Shopfit for all the shop fitting requirements in-store.

‘The Back Wall’

An important part of the refurbishment is what Emma says they call ‘the back wall’ – that’s the hot food, deli and bakery counters.

The new in-store ice –cream parlour has proven to be a huge success. Emma has worked on creating a new brand based on the family name – hence Rice ice cream was born. She is leading on this project and has plans for a stand alone Rice ice cream parlour later this year.

TikTok and social media success

“It’s been absolutely fantastic and so well received. Our social media really took off for the new brand – in fact, Rice’s Ice Cream Parlour has the biggest social media platform in Ireland and the UK for ice cream. On TikTok we have half a million followers and a video we posted had 16 million views – however I think there has been an element of luck in all that.”

Emma will continue to invent and build on the family name with the new ice cream brand.

“Ice cream brings customers in – it’s hugely popular. People are definitely looking for lockdown treats – and ice cream is a safe bet


“At the beginning there was an element of panic and bulk buying, but that calmed down quite quickly. At the beginning, we made sure we prioritised the elderly and vulnerable customers in the mornings. While there was some need for queues as we had to limit numbers of people in the shop, people were very accommodating.”

Family owned

Springisland remains family owned – now in to the second generation.

“Springisland was opened in 1997 by my grandfather and his brothers. Now it’s owned by my father Peter Rice,” explained Emma, who is now working full time in the company, as well as leading on the development of the ice cream brand. When Covid hit, she came back from Liverpool’s John Moore university where she’d been studying business management, and stepped in to the family business. Her brother is involved on the family farm (two younger brothers are still at university).

Butchery – Farm to Fork

Springisland is well known for its ‘farm to fork’ philosophy – where its Quality Assured beef and lamb come directly from the family’s farm

It’s no surprise that the butchery counter at Springisland is well-renowned – but another cutting edge that makes it unique – is that the butchery counter is mainly female run. Headed by Grainne Quinn – who has worked for Springisland for over a decade and is currently studying butchery at South West Regional College’s Portadown campus, she heads an all female team on the butchery counter of Shannon O’Neill, Andrea McCabe and Alison Ferreira-McGurgan.

Girl Power

The ‘back wall’ is also female led. Mary O’Neill oversees the deli, hot food, kitchen and bakery counters. In fact, for International Women’s Day, Springisland celebrated the fact that its store was largely female led  by store leaders Inesa Farkas and Roisin Rice, checkout leader – Sheena Gervin, Deli leader Mary O’Neill, Butchery leader Grainne Quinn, Fruit and veg leader Lauren Early, Ice cream leader Emma Rice, Buyer – Shauna Hughes, accounts team of Maria Cushnahan and Lillian Devlin and delivery team of Elaine Whitehouse, Shauna Quinn, and Bronagh Hamill.

One stop shop

The kitchen is now a full scale operation – with 35 staff constantly working across operations. “It’s like a mini High Street under one roof now – a butchers, bakery, deli, hot food, grocery, ice cream, fresh fruit and veg – it’s become a real one-stop shop.

As a family owned independent, Springisland is part of the Nisa group which allows the store to remain independent, while having the backing of a well known and respected symbol group name.

It’s a dynamic store with great ideas and plans for the future – including awareness of environmental and ‘green’ issues – making all its coffee cups compostable, recyclable shopping bags and making changes where and how it can to reduce plastic use.

2020 Achievements

2020 was a difficult year for many but Springisland is always moving forward and focusing on the positives. Ironically, Springisland clocked up numerous achievements in 2020.

“We finally finished our amazing extension and renovation including the addition of a new bakery counter and ice cream parlour, and donated over £10,000 to local charities through our making a difference fund and personally supported many initiatives and families” said Emma. “We raised almost £3,500 for Digg deep for kids campaign with our PS5 raffle, raised over £1,600 for the Boom Foundation, introduced new brands – Costa, Dunkin Donuts, Healthy Kitchen, Jack’s Kitchen, Skinny Sauces to name a few  and received recognition for our Covid safety measures.

“We helped to raise £500,000 through the national lottery to support local causes funded by the lotto, invested in a second delivery van to expand our home delivery service, created more employment in the local community and now have a workforce of over 100 people and launched an Autism awareness evening every Wednesday” said Emma.

The Ripple Effect

What’s next for Emma? Opening a stand-alone ice cream parlour later this year is high on the agenda to keep building the new ice cream brand.

“ I suppose you could call it the ripple effect” she laughed.