Kieran Murphy is one of the owners of Murphy’s Ice Cream. Here he describes the view from inside an ice cream shop as the summer fades away.
THE BUSY SEASON has ended in Dingle. Families have gone home to start school, people are back at work, and only the independent travellers are left – people with time on their hands and the flexibility of off-season travel. The traffic is gone from Green Street, the evening are quiet, and the fun fair has packed up and departed from the quay. Even the weather looks like it’s going to improve, which is part of the irony of Irish summers – we tend to get the sun after people go back to work or school.
In the world of ice cream, we’re catching our breath. The pressure of the high season is immense, since half of our turnover for the full year happens in a few short weeks, and anything can (and often does) go wrong. Have we made the right choices? Should we have raised prices to cover the VAT increase? We’ll find out soon enough, as we begin to take stock. With quieter days, we can plan for the off season and the year ahead. Like every year, we’ll ask ourselves, “Is there anything can we do to fill our shops once the summer is past?”
Naturally, people don’t stop eating ice cream once the weather cools. Irish people have the second highest ice cream consumption in Europe (behind Sweden), but the vast majority of that ice cream is eaten at home. We don’t have the tradition of the German “Eis Café,” where you’d go any time of year to tuck into an outrageously decorated and highly priced ice cream dessert. We don’t have the Italian or Spanish tradition of grabbing an ice cream cone on a fine evening as part of the post-dinner wander. We don’t have the tradition in the US, when you can find a queue outside a New York City ice cream shop in January.
Blink and you’ll miss it
What we do have is a love of sweet things (even if we don’t own up to it in public) and the desire to make the most of a summer that is so fleeting that you might miss it if you blink. The weather here teaches us to live in the moment (you can’t plan a day a the beach in advance – you have to grab a towel and rush out if the weather is fine). It teaches us that you may as well eat an ice cream in the rain, because it might be the only taste of summer you have. In the winter, perhaps ice cream fills our wish for sunny days ahead, even if we eat it secretly in our own four walls.
For the next few months, we’ll enjoy the mid-season – the shops still busy enough to carry a good atmosphere, and our customers more relaxed since they don’t have the panic of making the most of a precious summer day. We’ll do what we always do and take care of them and enjoy the optimism that comes with people enjoying themselves and indulging in something special. There may fewer of them now that it’s autumn, and in winter our shops will get quieter still, but the ebb and flow of the year also brings us cheer.
We know this recession, although it seems endless, will not last forever. We know the winter will come, but we also know it will pass. Even now, there is another summer coming.
Kieran Murphy is a director of Murphy’s Ice Cream. Murphy’s has shops in Dingle, Killarney, and Dublin and sells tubs through fine food shops nationwide. For more info, visit murphysicecream.ie.