My life in the grocery trade

Johnny McDowell, owner, Indie Fude Deli, Comber

Johnny McDowell, Owner, Indie Fude Deli, Comber

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

I own and run Indie Fude in Comber, a deli business specialising in artisan food and drink, especially from Northern Ireland. I also have a select number of suppliers from the Republic and Great Britain. As well as the shop in Comber, Indie Fude has a significant on-line presence, a catering operation that covers corporate events, hosts regular supper clubs and other artisan food promotions such as cheese presentations. We also support local markets around Northern Ireland, including those in Comber, Coleraine and Londonderry.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY TO DATE. I am a chartered accountant by profession and worked in Belfast and Dublin for 15 years. A longstanding interest in developing nations led to a career switch in which I worked for the World Bank in micro-finance support and training services for women in Vanuatu in the Pacific, and then for GOAL in micro-finance services in Sierra Leone. Illness led to my return to Northern Ireland and a subsequent decision to start my own business promoting and marketing local artisan products. I always had an interest in food and starting an initial on-line deli made sense. The popularity of the on-line business led to the store in Comber.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?

I am responsible for all aspects of the business, sourcing products, liaising with suppliers, meeting customers, demonstrating products and providing opportunities for them to experience and enjoy local food by means of a demonstration kitchen and our well-stocked cheese room, the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland. I also look after the on-line business and other important activities, including the programme of supper clubs which has included top chefs showing how best to cook local food. In addition, I have a developing corporate business that has included cheese tastings for major businesses, and a popular hamper business.

 

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?

The best part is the opportunity to work with the brilliant artisan businesses here and to help in marketing their excellent produce. It’s a very exciting sector with lots of inspirational people who are as passionate as I am about our artisan produce. As I mentioned earlier, I am passionate about local food and drink and enjoy meeting and working with so many amazing artisan businesses. I love hearing their stories and helping them to reach shoppers here. We are all part of a dedicated team that’s focused on enhancing Northern Ireland’s international reputation as the place to go for great tasting and original food and drink products with heritage, provenance and transparency.The worst part is probably the huge amount of personal time involved in building up a small business. The recent recruitment of my first employee, Laura, should give me more personal time and greater scope to plan ahead.

 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?

Tuesday is usually the only real day I take off. I tend to have brunch with Maggie, my wife, and then take in a movie. It’s also the only day I switch my mobile off. I can now leave Laura to look after the shop and other parts of the business.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW.

I am a closet Liverpool supporter; a season ticket holder for 19 years, who tries to get to Anfield as the business allows, which, sadly, isn’t that often. I also enjoy watching Ulster Rugby at the Kingspan.

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