Three of Kildare’s best-known businesses have revealed the secrets to their continued success as they agreed that constantly adapting their business priorities to meet their own needs and the needs of Irish consumers has been crucial to their evolution.
Newbridge Silverware, Cliff at Lyons’ and Kildare Brewing Company are household names in their respective industries – both nationally and internationally, and on the surface, it may seem that aside from their proud Kildare connections, they don’t have much in common.
However, scratch the surface and it is evident that each individual business has undergone their own transitionary periods to ensure relevancy and continue to improve their respective products and services, staying true to their values in the process.
Newbridge Silverware’s owner William Doyle reveals the company has re-evaluated their business model on many occasions – often from the brink of closure – to reinvent themselves to the Irish public and beyond.
Initially established as Newbridge Cutlery in the 1920’s, the company supplied silverware to the hotel and hospitality industry and was booming in its first number of years of operation, with up to 300 employees. Entry into the common market and competing with Japan who were producing low-cost silverware almost led to the collapse of the company, but was saved by a number of local investors, including Mr Doyle’s family.
They began creating jewellery in the 1980’s as something additional to offer but found it difficult to establish as the public didn’t associate Newbridge Cutlery with jewellery making, which inevitably led to a rebrand to Newbridge Silverware, while a stroke of good fortune established the brand nationally.
“We decided to change to Newbridge Silverware so that made a little bit more sense but they were still a bit resistant until they were forced to take us seriously when we had a visit from a TV Presenter on day, Barbara McMahon was her name. She hosted the fashion show ‘Head to Toe’ and ‘Off the Rails’. She came in one day to buy some canteen cutlery and the showroom was very small then, we asked could we take her picture and she wanted to tour the factory and have a look around then. She loved the story of the jewellery and said she would like to do a story on it
When she came down then we didn’t think anything would come of it but it just took off. The Irish Times wanted to come do and do a story, The Irish Independent wanted to do a story, all colour publications wanted to do something. Then all of a sudden retailers wanted to stock it and they had to stock it because there were customers coming in looking for it. A little bit after that, Nationwide wanted to do a programme. When leaving then, they asked for some samples and said they might have a friend who would like it. Watching the news that night then there was Anne Doyle wearing one of our pieces and then the next night wearing another piece. This carried on so I met with her and thanked for her help as everyone was asking to buy what she was wearing. She did that for us for 20 odd years and became good friends with everyone here, it was really good fortune.”
Meanwhile, Garrett Power, General Manager, has said that the pandemic allowed Celbridge’s Cliff at Lyons to consider their sustainability and environmental approaches as they devised a plan to help reduce their carbon emissions – but also continue to develop and grow their brand in line with their ethos, which prioritises organic Irish products.
Mr Power explains:
“During the period of lockdown, we commenced what we call a Farm Project. We’re home to one of the top restaurants in the country – Aimsir, which is two Michelin star restaurant but during the pandemic we also launched The Mill Restaurant and our chefs – Seán Smith in The Mill, and Jordan Bailey in Aimsir, have both been quite active in terms of developing this sustainable farm project.
“It is quite an extensive farm now and is still evolving and we’re expanding to livestock at the moment. The ethos is that our garden feeds Aimsir restaurant along with The Mill, so it provides them with the salads and vegetables.
“In tandem with quite an extensive selection of vegetables, salads, we have four polytunnels where we grow our own herbs. the majority of these are being used in the Aimsir restaurant. The ethos behind Aimsir is in the name, the Irish for weather, everything on the island of Ireland is used in Aimsir but not from any other country. For example, they don’t use olive oil in Aimsir because you can’t get that in Ireland. You won’t find fois gras in Aimsir because you can’t get it in Ireland. Everything is really local down to the cutlery that’s used and the products that are used and this is also reflected in Cliff Retail, our own range of Irish produced organic products.”
A focus on Irish and local produce was also a stepping stone to success for Barry Flanagan who is the owner of Lock 13 Brewpub in Sallins having inherited the pub from his parents.
After successfully navigating the pub through the recession, Barry said the company took the decision to alter their business model to focus on serving local Irish craft beers and match it with locally produced food was a winner that led to the launch of Kildare Brewing Company in 2017.
Mr Flanagan says: “Our ethos is a drink made here matched with a food made from the land and in 2017 we saw the increase in sales of our business due to being able to offer something different to the customer so then we decided to do our own micro-brewery which is where Kildare Brewing began.
“It’s been great journey since we’ve had a brewery on site, people can see where the beer is made and then have a pint of the beer in front of them so it’s a very interactive experience in the sense that you can see all the tanks, you can see a commercial brewery on site but also then you have the beauty of the Grand Canal on our doorstep,” he added.
In 2020, Lock 13 added another strong to their bow as they decided to begin producing Kombuca and were successful in a pitch to Aldi – their Pro Kulture Organic Kombuca is now available in all Aldi stores nationwide and represents a new and welcome departure for Lock 13 and Kildare Brewing Company.
Mr Flanagan said: “We linked up with Java Republic who would have been our tea and coffee supplier at the time. They have a great range of and we did our first batch. Christmas season kept us busy at the pub and brewery so we didn’t do anything with Pro Kulture Organic Kombuca until January 2020. “We pitched to Aldi in 2020 as part of their Grow with Aldi and we haven’t looked anywhere else since. It has taken on another lease of life. It’s a product that fits what we want to do. We have seen in the pub there is a shift, people aren’t drinking as much so we feel that this was a product we were able to create without a massive investment but also it hit off as well where we ourselves as consumers want to be able to consume the product – it ticks all the boxes,” he concluded.