First Encounters: Ross Staunton and Amy Hamilton

‘I’m still a bit shocked we get on so well’

 Ross Staunton and Amy Hamilton in Foodgame on South Lotts Road in Dublin. Photograph:   Nick Bradshaw

Ross Staunton and Amy Hamilton in Foodgame on South Lotts Road in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 01:00

Ross Staunton grew up around Nimble Fingers, his family’s business, an educational and art supply shop in Dublin. In 2010 he opened Foodgame, a cafe on South Lotts Road in Dublin. On Wednesday he will open Raglan, a concept store, with business partner and Foodgame’s front-of- house manager, Amy Hamilton

I was going out with Amy’s sister in school and would have met her for the first time in the family house. She was Jilly’s little sister; I didn’t pay too much attention to her. After we finished school Jilly and I didn’t see each other for about 12 years. When we did meet again we became serious quickly and I saw a lot of Amy because they’re an intensely close family. My family is more laid back.

Amy and I have similar characters; both impatient and strong willed . . . Plus I’m extremely stubborn and so is she.

To say we didn’t really get on at the start is an understatement. She was impressionable in her 20s and her choice of men wasn’t the best. I looked out for her, but didn’t offer advice. It would have gone down like a lead balloon. Jilly and I spent six weeks away with Amy, living in the same space, after she was diagnosed with cancer. It was very intense but we came through, still friends.

Now it’s come full circle. Since she started working for me the relationship has changed; it could have gone horribly wrong but didn’t. We couldn’t do this new venture together unless we’d come full circle.

Amy’s strong, really strong. The way she dealt with her illness was typical. She was practical, the one holding the whole family together. She’s tough too. Working in Foodgame the banter can go over the top, but she always laughs it off. She puts her foot in it sometimes, though. I used do that too but am not as bad as I was. Amy’s very straight. She won’t sit on the fence either and that gets her into trouble sometimes. I’d prefer that to her not saying anything.

Jilly knows Amy and I are like two kids, like sister and brother. She’s much too sensible to ever get involved. Jilly is selfless and she’s always right. Amy was meant to be short-term with Foodgame. She was looking for middle management jobs in good stores when she started, but she has all the qualities of someone who should work for themselves. She’s quite driven . . . So I urged her to go it alone.

She’s got a fashion background and I’ve got this coffee/food place so – well, we’re opening Raglan in Drury Street together. It’ll be a concept store . . . people can come in just for the coffee, to help generate a nice atmosphere.

If you’d predicted this – Amy and me opening a place, people would have laughed, said no way! But working together has made the relationship good. Now she’s got a really good guy too, which is great for her.

Amy Hamilton grew up in Rathgar, Dublin and is a fashion graduate from the NCAD. In 2005 she opened a surf and snow boarding shop with her sister, Jilly. After its 2008 sale and a cancer diagnosis, she went travelling with Ross and Jilly (now Ross’s wife). She will open an urban clothing and coffee shop with Ross this week

It’s hard to pin-point exactly the first time I met Ross. I’m sure it was one of those arm-in-arm-sitting-on-the-couch-with-my-sister situations.

Our families are friendly and we went to the same school, though he was older, so not at the same time. He was my sister Jilly’s boyfriend and was always around. His parents owned Nimble Fingers so we were always in there too.

I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, the same week Jilly and I sold our surf and snow boarding shop. I’d intended moving to France to live but after the diagnosis myself, Jilly and Ross went on a six-week holiday together. Jilly and Ross had just got back together after a 10-year break and he’d sold a food store he had at the time. It was a big test, a really full-on six weeks; Ross survived, and our friendship survived.

When we came back I was in and out of hospital for months. Jilly and Ross stayed around, there for me all the time. In January they moved to Sydney, to try it out as a place to live, and when I finished my treatment I went to Australia as well.

We travelled together again, but I probably drove them mad, sleeping on their floor. I was 26, they were older and trying to set up a little home. Plus I was broke. It was great being around them. Ross cooked me amazing dinners while I did my washing. I was like the awkward third person. They got engaged while I was in Sydney and came home.

I went to Shanghai for three years and came home in 2011. Ross had opened Foodgame by then and I used drop in to give him a dig-out, in a creative way, and Ross wanted someone to work so I started at Foodgame.

My mother worried that we would kill one another – we fight like siblings. We’re both strong-headed and have a love-hate relationship. I’m still a bit shocked that we get on so well now.

And now we’re going into business together, opening a clothes shop. It’ll be urban cool, for men and women, with a coffee bar . . . I’ll be running it, cakes will be baked at Foodgame, Ross will be in and out and Jilly will help me with the buying.

I’ve learned a lot of skills at Foodgame, and a lot from Ross. He’s great at switching off. I really admire him. He’s truly admirable, a real people person with an amazing memory for faces and names.

Our lives are so involved, the personal and business; it’s great we get on so well. Hopefully it’ll continue for another 50 years.

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