On a recent Monday afternoon at Ring Terrace in Inchicore a crowd is starting to gather outside Boom Coffee.
Three Irish Rail workers are sitting outside on stools wearing orange hi-vis jackets and sipping large coffees.
On the other side of the shopfront, a blonde woman is on her phone while drinking a cappuccino.
Two men join the socially distanced queue, and not long after that, a woman with long brown hair joins at the end.
It doesn’t take the owner, Craig McCarthy long to serve each customer but he manages to have a bit of a chat and banter with each of them.
Inside, large wooden panels are painted grey, and wooden shelves are decorated with two Buddha statues. There’s some decorative sandbags, as well as paintings, including a little watercolour of the shop in a frame.
The watercolour was a present from a customer, says McCarthy.
“This is like a new hub in the area,” says Neal McQuaid, a regular customer who lives around the corner.
McQuaid says that there’s nowhere else on this side of Inchicore for coffee, and now, people are walking up from the other side of the village everyday to get their fix.
“There are lots of people here every day,” he says.
McCarthy says they are coming from all over Dublin too. He’s had people in from Terenure and Tallaght and the Minister for Finance, Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe was in here yesterday, he says.
Another customer, Liza Green, is buying coffee for her colleagues. As McCarthy foams the milk, she gives out to him for working too much. “Just one day off in four months, it’s crazy, but he’s driven.” she says.
As Green picks up her coffee to leave she remarks, “you’ll drop dead one day and then there will be no more coffees,” laughing.
McCarthy launched Boom Coffee four months ago at around 2pm, he didn’t plan to open that day, but finished the refurbishment work earlier than he expected. So, he decided to throw open the doors. By 5pm he had already sold around 80 coffees, he says.
A Gut Feeling
McCarthy, 25, is a recent graduate of communications in Dublin City University.
Rather than waiting for a job to come to him, he decided to go out and create one for himself.
“I’m not the sort of person to hang around waiting for jobs,” he says, as the cafe buzzes and hums in the background.
He thought it might be years before there are any good opportunities in communications, as a result of what he sees as an impending economic recession precipitated by the pandemic.
Others from his class have not found anything yet, he says.
“I always wanted to do my own business, that is just the way I am,” he says.
He noticed that takeaway coffees were still doing well in his suburb of Ranelagh where he currently lives, remarking that despite a recession, people will always want a coffee.
Opening any business during Covid-19 takes a bit of courage, but he says he went with his gut.
“I just sort of had a gut feeling you know,” he says. “I said ‘why not, give it a shot?’ I’ve nothing to lose.”
McCarthy worked in restaurants to support himself through college, he says, and is a trained barista.
When the premises in Inchicore came up, it just felt right, he says.
He knows the owner and secured a good deal on the place, he says. “I said right so, now I can use all those skills I have.”
His vision is to provide great low-cost coffee with a friendly vibe. “Speciality coffee at a lower price than anywhere else,” he says. “It is €2.70 for a flat white. That is normally €3.40.”
He shakes his head at the idea of places charging €3.50 for those simple drinks. “I don’t need to be greedy, I’d rather go in with a low price and get people coming back to me,” he says.
As well as a full range of coffees, he also has herbal teas, lots of syrups, pastries and homemade brownies baked by a neighbour of his. “It is a simple set up,” he says.
Flat to the Mat
He didn’t hire staff at the beginning because he wanted to be the face of the business and build the atmosphere with the customers. “Have a bit of craic with them,” he says. “That is what life is all about not taking yourself too seriously,” he says.
That has meant working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. “I just have to keep putting the hours in,” he says.
He is trying out a part-time staff member at the moment, he says, so that he can get the odd day off.
He is good at DIY so he refitted the premises himself, he says, which took five days. “I had a grey bucket of paint and I just decided to use it,” he says.
He can’t figure out why other coffee shops close at 3 pm when the afternoon trade is steady. “As the day goes by it gets busier.” Boom Coffee often stays open past the official closing time of 5 pm, because the customers keep coming, he says.
“It has been flat to the mat,” he says.
Like a very good barman, McCarthy seems to know all his customers, their name and what they drink. He chats about the weather, he asks what they did at the weekend, inquires about their work, one young man is thrilled to tell him that he got his driver’s license.
McCarthy says he loves meeting people. “It is like the confession box in here,” he says. “People will tell you anything, you try to help people as much as you can.”