LATER this week one of Letterkenny’s most popular cafes, Cafe Blend, will close its doors.
For owner, Pauline Sugrue, it will mark the end of seven years in business but also the start of a new adventure.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Ms Sugrue said that it was with sadness she took the decision to cease trading and thanked the many people who have supported her since she took over the business in 2009. She is now focusing her energy on opening a new cookery school in Ramelton.
Cafe Blend was first opened on Letterkenny’s High Road back in 2006 by Cliff Smith and his sister-in-law Andrea. It brought a new dimension to eating in the town and quickly developed a reputation for good quality, fresh, locally sourced food. When they decided to hand over the business to someone else Pauline Sugrue had just returned from Australia with her husband, Michael, a surgeon at Letterkenny University Hospital.
“I took a leap of faith and decided to take over the lease. I had come from a medical background working as a mammographer for more than 20 years. Initially I had hoped to get a job at the hospital in Letterkenny, but our return to Ireland co-incided with the HSE’s recruitment embargo.
Passion for food
“I have a passion for good food and good coffee but had only ever cooked at home for my husband and our four boys. Taking over Cafe Blend has been an amazing journey and I have enjoyed every minute of it. The long days, and long nights and of course, my fantastic staff, suppliers and customers. It has been every beat of my heart and brought me great joy and happiness.”
Over the past seven years, Cafe Blend has given a platform to local writers, musicians and artists. Ms Sugrue explained: “We have hosted exhibitions from so many different artists, book launches and of course the local North West Words group which I set up with Eamonn Bonner.
“I love working with food and have really enjoyed serving the people of Donegal. I love their honesty and tenacity and their support for me all through the recession, they took me through it which was fantastic and pushed me to the next level all the time. I had such a loyal clientele and the closure has really come as a shock to them.”
Last minute decision
Ms Sugrue added: “To be honest, the decision to close was only made at the last minute. I’ve been thinking about when I would exit and the I need to set up my cookery school by next year and the lease was due for renewal. I have given my all over the last seven years and wanted a new challenge. The time was just right to close.”
Shortly after their return from Australia, the Sugrues purchased the former Northern Bank building in Ramelton which they restored to a family home. It will now be the location for Ms Sugrue’s new venture, the Cafe Blend Cookery School at The Bank.
“I have come to realise that I always need to have a project on the go. I wanted to take things in a new level and will be spending the next three months in Cork at Ballymaloe Cookery School where I’m taking part in the professional course. I hope to have my own cookery school open in Ramelton by early spring next year.
“Behind the house there’s a lovely old Edwardian shed and we have lovely gardens so I think it will be a great location for the cookery school.
“My hope is that it will be something quirky that will appeal to a wide range of people, from book clubs to local schools.”
Ms Sugrue also thanked her landlord Albert Strain for his support over the years and expressed hopes that he will find a new tenant who will continue to run a cafe in the premises.
“I’ll be taking some of my own belongings with me but the property will remain as a cafe. I would love to see someone take it over.”
Cafe Blend will close on Saturday, July 30, where there will be free champagne for the many loyal customers who have supported the business over the years.
Posted: 12:44 pm July 25, 2016