by Catherine Cook
ANNA Good is passionate about health food. She has seen at first-hand the benefits of a lifestyle change and is the driving force behind Wholegreen, Donegal’s first vegan, health food café.
Located on Letterkenny’s Church Lane, Wholegreen provides a permanent base for the already successful juice business which Anna started from home in 2014.
This week, the Donegal News met with Anna to hear how a Netflix movie led her to embrace a healthy lifestyle and how that has rapidly flourished into a full time business.
“Until recently, this type of approach to healthy eating was something I had never considered. However, after having my second child I put on a lot of weight. I was the typical woman and went on every diet and never shifted any of it.Even when I did manage to lose some, it would go straight back on. The real change for me came when I watched a movie on Netflix called ‘Forks Over Knives’. It was all about plant-based eating and made me realise that everything I had thought about eating was wrong. I thought I would give it a go. I watched some other movies about juicing and after that I bought a cheap juicer to try it out.
She continued: “Within three days of doing my first juice cleanse (Anna doesn’t like the word detox), I couldn’t believe how clear and light I felt. I had been going about with a foggy head and when the sugar fog lifted and I realised that if this was how good I felt after three days, then something had to change.”
“It was the summer time, I had more time with the kids so I started growing my own vegetables in the garden at home in Ramelton. We were growing so much that I was able to start juicing for other people. A lot of neighbours and friends were saying how good it was so we started going to the market at Ramelton then.
“The whole concept of Wholegreen came up in December two years ago. We decided to focus on that so I went to the LEO and did their start your own business course to gauge if we could get somewhere with it.
“In July we went to the Home-grown Food Festival and got such and amazing reaction. People were aware juicing was up and coming but didn’t really understand much about it, so we had a lot of people tasting our juices and asking questions.”
She continued: “It was then that it really hit me that we had a product that the public wanted and that this was something I really wanted to seriously pursue.”
This was further reinforced when Wholegreen received a Blas na hEireann award for their Green Monster Juice last summer. They have also recently completed a deal to supply their organic wheatgrass to branches of Supervalu which is die to launch in the coming weeks.
Originally from Dublin, Anna met her husband Paul, a Letterkenny-man, during a holiday in Crete in 2003. Soon after, she found herself living and working in Letterkenny. To many of her new customers she is already a familiar face having worked as an interior designer for more than 10 years with Foy & Co.
Recent years have seen a surge in activity levels among the people of Letterkenny and Anna said it is very much the case that many people here have taken a pro-active approach to exercise and lifestyle.
“When the recession hit the cheap thing to do was exercise. There is no doubt that everyone wants to look after themselves. The idea behind Wholegreen is to give them somewhere accessible. The assumption is that health food is expensive and we really didn’t want that. The biggest thing for us was about being plant based, turning the food pyramid on its head. It’s about eating more fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, that’s the basis of the restaurant. It’s fair to say that we are 90 per cent vegan although every day we have one meat dish on.”
The juices that first inspired Anna to start Wholegreen are also a major focus of the business and demand for her cold pressed juice cleanses is growing.
Anna, however, is also no stranger to the food industry. Her father Colin O’Daly is a Michelin star chef and owner of the renowned Ballsbridge restaurant Roly’s Bistro. However, growing up, Anna was determined that her career would follow a different path.
“I know how hard this work is and I always said I would never go into the restaurant business. I worked in my Dad’s restaurants in Dublin and Florida and I never imagined that I would. However, at the same time, now that I am involved in the industry, it’s kind of second nature.
She added: “My dad, was genuinely surprised, his type of food is so alien to ours. He came up recently to give us a hand and it’s interesting for him to see how things have moved on. I was very nervous about getting into business but we’ve had really good support and feedback.”
Her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s not surprising that less than three month’s since Wholegreen first opened, the cafe has already established a loyal and returning customer base.
“We are very lucky to be in a position where we already have people who come in on a regular basis. We want to be the type of place where we know all our customers by name and have something to offer to a diverse range of people.”
As well as the regulars, Wholegreen also gets its fair share of curious visitors, often popping their head round the door to “see what it’s all about”. And then there are those who call in for old times sake.
“We’re based in what used to be the Bakersville bakery and cafe. I’ve been amazed at the nostalgia associated with the building. We have had so many people coming in and telling us that this is where they used to buy their apple tarts or cream cakes.”
They have also teamed up with a number of sports people who have also recognised the benefit of fuelling their body with the right type of food.
Anna explained: “Already we have worked with Michael Murphy, we sponsor Aidan Callaghan from the 24/7 Triathlon Club who won the Triathlon Sprint Series which is a major achievement. We sponsor his juices, natural gels and food every week. We’ve also recently started sponsoring rally co-driver, Niall Burns. He has to take a lot of long-haul flights so we are preparing all his food s so he can keep his nutrition up. We have plans to get more involved in the sports market and its an area that’s of great interest to me.”
Commenting on plans for the future, Anna stated: “Everything has moved so fast we haven’t really stopped and taken stock of what we have done. We’re already two years ahead of our five year plans. We have so many more plans but at the moment we want to enjoy the first year and let people know what we’re about. We would love to involve the community more, get local suppliers and have evening events. We want to build a health community.”