We all scream for ice-cream

Features

KREM DE LA KREM Graham Byrne behind the counter of his gelateria and cafe on Bridge Street in Westport.

Occupation: Proprietor of Krem Gelateria and Cafe, Westport and new President of Westport Chamber of Commerce

Ice-cream making has been a family business since my great-grandmother first started making it in the 1930s, so I am a fourth generation ice-cream maker.
The family business is in Strandhill, Co Sligo and I learned the basic skills in the family business. My great-grandmother developed her recipes and passed it down the generations and my father extended the family business.
I’m 34 now and my goal was to have a business by the time I was 30 and I was always quite ambitious. I travelled around the world when I was younger, spending a good chunk of time, maybe six years in New Zealand. I worked for a company called Ferg Foods and I learned a lot of skills there.
Looking around New Zealand the food offering was fantastic and it showed me what was possible in the ice-cream industry. There was some fantastically weird and wonderful offerings over there.
When I came home I started to set-up on my own two feet and the opportunity in Westport came up and I went for it. It is a town I was always very fond off as a child, coming up and down from Sligo on holidays.
It was very daunting at the time. I put every bit of life savings I accrued into it and managed to convince the banks to loan me a bit of money. I went gung-ho and straight into it.
We opened the doors in July 2019. We had a great start and enjoyed the first few month and the next thing we got hit in the face with the pandemic.
I remember the day before St Patrick’s Day when we closed our doors and the other business people on the street were in the same position as us. I remember two of the lads in the pub down the street came up with a bottle of champagne and we sat and cried. We did not think we would ever be open again. When I reopened I did not have enough money to pay back my suppliers and was running on a hope and a prayer. Thankfully it was all good in the end.
We are open seven days a week and in the summer we open from 10am to 10pm and after summer until Christmas we open from 10am to 8pm and now for the next couple of months we are open from 10 to 6.
The ice-cream sales slow down during the winter but in Ireland we love our ice-cream, no matter the weather, and it is never too cold for an ice-cream.
We have to keep going through the year to ensure we are a reliable business on the street where people can get a good coffee at any time and grab and ice cream or a crepe. The crepes are very popular at this time of year.
Experimenting with new recipes is something which really drives my passion in the industry. I have won awards for my ice cream in New Zealand and Italy. One award I won in New Zealand was for blue cheese and caramelise pear, so experimenting is always fun.
Our most popular flavour is the sea salt caramel using Achill Island Sea Salt. We were on television with Neven Maguire for Neven’s Irish Seafood Trails soon after we opened and that was a massive boost. As soon as that got aired we could not keep sea salt caramel, it was flying out faster than we could make it. People are much more receptive to a varied flavour profile compared to what they were.
I was lucky, I grew up in a family business so I have seen a lot of hard times, so I was expecting a lot of hard times. Not as much as what I received from Covid-19 downturn, but I was not completely unprepared. It is tougher than you think. You might think you’ll open your doors and sell a few things and you’ll be right as rain, but with the overheads and electricity going up, it throws another obstacle your way.
But I enjoy every second of it because it is my passion. I love what I do and I’m branded for life and cannot do anything else for the rest of my days.
I love Westport and Westport is home for me now. I have a fiancée I met down here and hope to build a home and stay for the rest of my days. I fell in love with the place as soon as I started my business here. I came in as an outsider but the town and everyone was so welcoming and it is a fantastic place to set-up business. I would not have changed a thing.

In conversation with Anton McNulty

Tea break

What is you motto?
Live your business and support local

When do you get your best work done?
When I am under pressure

What is your guilty pleasure?
Probably a lovely bar of chocolate

Who is the most famous person you have met during the course of your work?
I met Ed Sheeran in New Zealand, we supplied him with some burgers and ice-cream and the most famous person in Ireland I met was Neven Maguire

Most prized possession?
My laptop which holds all my ice-cream secrets, I can’t live without it

If money was no object what would you do?
I would set up an ice-cream factory in Westport and become the Willy Wonka of ice-cream in Ireland

What makes you nervous?
Public speaking

What makes you angry?
I am not a very angry person in general and not someone who loses my cool

Who do you most admire in business?
My mother, Eavan O’Hara and my father, Niall Byrne. They took big risks and some paid off and some didn’t

Favourite place in the world?
I adore New Zealand but it is too far away