IRELAND’S OLDEST FOOD COOPERATIVE FINDS A PERMANENT HOME IN KILMAINHAM
After years of searching Dublin’s increasingly competitive property market, the Dublin Food Cooperative (DFC) has finally found a permanent home in Kilmainham opening on the 10th November 2018.
The Newmarket Dublin 8 area has changed considerably over the last decade. The abandoned construction sites that once mocked the demise of the Celtic Tiger are slowly giving way to new student housing, apartment blocks, and hotels. When DFC moved from Pearse Street to Newmarket during the depths of the recession, it was always with the view that it was temporary.
The search for a new home
The search for a more permanent premise began almost immediately. What the search committee didn’t realise at the time though was just how difficult it would be to find a new home.
According to a JLL Irish Property Index report released earlier this year, commercial property values have almost doubled from the trough in 2013. As the economy has grown and new businesses have opened, the number of affordable commercial properties in Dublin available to lease or purchase has declined dramatically. It is against the backdrop of this competitive market that DFC’s premises committee searched to find a new location.
Paul Farrell DFC Board Member and long-standing member of the premises committee recalls “there was always a sense of urgency to find a new premises, but none of the properties ever seemed quite right and perhaps in the back of our minds there was always a hope that if we couldn’t find a new place, we’d be allowed to stay in Newmarket.” That hope was dashed when earlier this year DFC Board members were notified that the plan to develop Newmarket, which had been suspended through the recession, was now back on.
The Newmarket premises DFC had leased for eleven years was to be torn down in just a few months time to make way for a new development, and with the deadline for eviction now imminent, DFC was under enormous pressure to find a new home.
Patrick Flynn, DFC Board Chair, Architect, and Lecturer at DIT believes that during particularly difficult times Fate can sometimes play a part in the solution. “It was a very difficult time. We faced huge pressure to find a new premises quickly in a market with very few suitable properties. We were turning over every rock and couldn’t find anything. Then we heard about Kilmainham. I’ve seen this happen before, you can look for years and find nothing suitable and then the next day find exactly what you need. Just when you’re about to give up, a solution appears.”
A new chapter
The solution for DFC was to buy a property in the heart of Kilmainham, and with financial support from Community Finance Ireland who assisted with the property purchase and fit-out costs. Donore Credit Union provided additional financing of part of the fit-out costs.
The significant finance provided by Community Finance is a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of the DFC and the huge opportunities that lie ahead for this co-operative enterprise to make a further impact – with ever increasing numbers of Dublin residents looking for more ethical, sustainable and community-led alternatives.
Aoife Hammond, DFC’s Acting General Manager, sees the new premises as the next step in DFC’s growth. “We’re definitely sad to leave Newmarket, but now that we’ve found a new home we’re looking forward to introducing organic foods and our cooperative ethos to a whole new member base.”
DFC also raised €60,000 from its membership during its ‘Help Us Grow’ campaign demonstrating the commitment that members of a consumer co-operative have to the place that they shop and the community they have built.
A co-operative future
Sam Toland, DFC Co-operative Secretary, believes the cooperative model is the key to DFC’s sustainability. “Our motto is ‘Deep-rooted in the community since 1983’. We’re excited about moving to the new premises because for the first time in our history we own a property rather than lease, we anticipate staying in Kilmainham for many years to come.
It’s important to remember though that ‘Community’ isn’t as much a place as it is a culture built and reinforced by people committed to shared values. Our members form the foundation of our co-operative and will always be the roots of our community. As long as we maintain a strong, vibrant membership we will continue to grow, thrive and contribute to building a more sustainable Dublin.”