5 Minutes With: Bear Market Coffee & Pure Food

Ruth Hussey is co-founder of two separate businesses; Pure Food and Bear Market Coffee based in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. In 3 short years she has gone from baking in her Mums kitchen at 26 to running her own foodie empire. We caught up with her to hear all about gluten free food meets architecture and coffee.

1. How did Pure Food start?  

I graduated in architecture 6 years ago, and when I came out I just could not get a job in the industry. I tried a few jobs but just wasn’t happy so I started making cakes with my Mum and selling them at markets. I didn’t really think of it as a business, just a hobby. We did that for about a year and at that point we just saw a gap in the market – there was no good quality fresh gluten free food out there. So we just decided to take the leap and go for it. We opened the commercial kitchen in 2012 and started supplying to the likes of Donnybrook Fair and Avoca there after.

2. Then how long was it before Bear Market Coffee opened?

Well that brought us up to 2013, and my boyfriend Stephen was also an architect with no work so was at a bit of a loose end. He decided to look into the coffee end of the bakery. We started doing training and then selling coffee in the bakery. We found people were actually passing the big coffee chains on the main street and coming up to us for coffee. So in our madness we decided to do a pop up to test the market. We would get up at half 5 to set up, put the coffee machine on a mobile trolly, roll it down to the main street ready for the morning commuters. We only did it from half 6 to half 9 and would sell about 80 cups of coffee in that time so new there definitely was a business to be had. We did it for 3 months up until Christmas and made the decision to open the coffee shop.

3. What made you want to get into gluten free baking?

My Mum and I are coeliac, I was diagnosed as a baby and Mum was shortly after. The food growing up was really horrible, just really basic, non nutritional and you couldn’t just get a good loaf of fresh bread anywhere. Everything was filled with preservatives or imported from over seas. So my Mum used to always bake for us and she had loads of these great recipes that she had been working on over 25 years which I then took on.

4. When you started out did you find it hard to get access to ingredients in Ireland that were gluten free?

Yeah that actually was a huge problem because we have to import everything. Everything has to be tested if you’re going to sell it commercially, so if we wanted to make a granola and there was quinoa and buckwheat flakes in it, we would have to send it all off to be tested. Once we know then where we’re getting it from we’re ok, but if that distributor isn’t coming to Ireland any more we have to start the whole testing process all over again. It’s quite costly and really time consuming.

5. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink from Pure Food and Bear Market?

I love brown bread so I’m always eating that and then definitely the brownies. Then in the coffee shop it’s a flat white. I can’t get enough of it – I’m a total coffee lover now.

6. How is it working with your Mum and soon-to-be husband?

[Laughs] Well people say I’m mad to work with my Mum and husband-to-be but it’s great. Me and my Mum are really alike and we gel really well and it’s exactly the same with me and Stephen. We always seem to have the same thought process, we know where we’re going, so it makes the moving forward period really easy. We’re all pushing on the same thing so we’re happy when either business is doing well. If anything we probably just spend way too much time together – we’re always making jokes like ‘I just don’t see you enough’ so maybe we could learn to branch out a little [laughs].

7. Bear Market Coffee has been recognised architecturally as well, recently featuring in Open House Dublin, tell us a bit about that?

Well when we started out we new we wanted it to be a really cool space and design it ourselves. We teamed up with some of the guys we went to college with who have a practice called Vav. So the idea of Bear Market is taken from the financial term; a bear market, like a down market, and us coming out of college during the recession seemed to fit that. That’s where the bear in the logo comes from, we saw him as this big banker who had lost his job and was back using his bike! When picking the materials then we wanted it to be quite raw, industrial and inspired by a construction site. That’s where the steel bars around the shop came from – it’s normally used in reinforced concrete. Then Stephen made all the furniture out of this construction timber. We were all here for 8 weeks getting the job done and it was so much fun.

8. You recently won Best Young Entrepreneur, what’s been the highlight of your career so far? 

Now is definitely a highlight, I feel I can finally take a breather and just look at what’s been accomplished. Both the bakery and coffee shop are now fully staffed and we can just take a step back and think of where we’re going to go next.

9. So what is next for Pure Foods and Bear Market Coffee?

With Pure we have a new range of mixes so that you bake every thing at home yourself. We’ll be finalising those and looking to move into the export market. Then we’d love to boost our online profile and sell more online. Then with Bear, we hope to have another shop open in the New Year in another village near by!

Find the Pure Food bakery in the Blackrock Market and Bear Market Coffee on the main street in Blackrock. 

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