SETTLED Ballinrobe’s Martin Flannery has made Santiago his home away from home.
Martin Flannery’s business in Santiago is going strong
“You have to stop by Flannery’s if you go to Santiago.” That was the main bit of advice I received before I set off on my South American adventure. It seems like a rite of passage for any Mayo, or indeed Irish backpacker. And where better to get some home comforts than at Ballinrobe man Martin Flannery’s hostelry.
It’s unassuming, in an area dominated by skyscrapers, and office blocks. Flannery’s looks out of place and perhaps that’s its unique selling point for Chilean office workers looking to quench their thirst.
It exudes Irish charm with its warm lighting, blazing fire and walls adorned with Irish memorabilia. On this journo’s visit, a pang of homesickness hit as I stumbled upon the ‘tariffs and taxes of Ballinrobe’ poster, and a Mayo News article written by Ballinrobe man Mike Finnerty of this parish, taking pride of place beside the bar.
Bananas to booze
So how did a Ballinrobe man end up owning a successful bar in Chile’s capital?
“I worked for Fyffe Bananas in Honduras and Belize, so when they bought into the company in Chile, they sent me there as their general manager. In the second part of 1998, myself and my brother bought into an existing bar and we redecorated and changed the name to Flannery’s in 1999,” explains Martin.
Though tempted to return to the rain and cold in his native Ireland at one stage, Martin stayed on to run the bar after his brother returned home in 1999. Asked how he turned an ailing business into the success it is today, Martin puts it down to ‘the Irish concept’.
“The pub was nearly bankrupt but slowly we got the sales up, pushing the Irish concept with Irish traditional music and dance.”
Along with this, Flannery made St Patrick’s Day a well-known event in Chile and can be seen on Chilean TV screens every March 17.
Explaining what it is about the pub that appeals to Irish expats (of which there are less than 100 in Santiago), travellers and Chilean natives, Martin says the fact that it’s the most traditional Irish pub in ‘this part of the world’ helps.
“We worked hard on importing different types of beers in the early days like Carlsberg, Tuborg, Tetleys, Guinness, etc, which weren’t available in Chile. Later on we started making our own beer under the Flannery’s brand.”
Adding to his business portfolio, Flannery set up his own brewing company along with a number of investors, in 2013, and also opened up Flannery’s Beer House, a fresh faced sister pub of Flannery’s, last year.
According to Flannery, the idea behind his latest venture was to focus on ‘our own beers’ and also invite some other craft breweries to supply us as ‘guest beers’.
“The pub is different and more like a Gastro Pub in that we are also more focused on food in comparison to the original Flannery’s Pub.”
With the flagship Flannery’s closing within the next year to become part of a new retail and office development, which will see it closed for at least 18 months, the new Flannery’s location aims to help maintain its customer base during this time.
Flannery’s brewery was set up in September 2013 and sells under two brands ‘Flannery’s’ and ‘Tubinger’. ‘Flannery’s’ brand is for in-house sales and Tubinger is sold to third party pubs, restaurants and supermarkets.
“We currently produce seven different types of craft beers namely Pale Ale, Summer Ale, Irish Red Ale, IPA, Dark Strong, and Flannery’s Cream Stout, which is a Guinness type made using Nitrogen.”
He continues, “We also have just produced an American Pale Ale (APA) which will be launched this month. The most popular is the Irish Red and Pale Ale. The stout is also popular in our own outlets.”
Throughout the three businesses Martin estimates that Flannery’s employs over 100 people, 90 between the two pubs and 25 people in the brewery.
Home, sweet home
Though he hasn’t lived at home in over 25 years, the Ballinrobe man returns to the south Mayo town two to three times a year to visit family and friends.
“I have great memories growing up in Ballinrobe which will always be home for me, so it’s nice to get back and meet up with old friends and neighbours.”
And does he ever see himself moving back home?
“I have a base near Ballinrobe on Lough Mask, so I’m going to try to spend more time in and around Ballinrobe over the coming years and to be closer to my kids who are living in Dublin,” he concludes.
Who knows, perhaps we will see Flannery’s Cream Stout hitting the pubs and supermarkets of Ballinrobe in the coming years. ‘Til then though, it’s business as usual in Santiago.