Leonard's celebrates 120th anniversary


Dublin’s oldest fresh fruit and vegetable supplier celebrates its 120th anniversary today.

Justin Leonard, the fourth-generation owner of Jackie Leonard and Sons Ltd, said the biggest change he’d seen was the way strict seasonability had gone out of the business. “It was very much a seasonal business. If the produce wasn’t grown in Ireland or the UK, you just wouldn’t get it,” he said.

“The world has become a much smaller place. Now you can have whatever you want within 24 hours. If people want strawberries in the winter, we can get them from Australia.”

But in spite of a much wider range of fruit and vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes remain staples, even as other things change. In the past 10 years, for example, Halloween nibbles have changed from fruit and nuts to sweets and chocolate.

Still, Justin isn’t worried. “We’ve survived the Rising in 1916, the War of Independence, first World War, second World War and all the recessions in between. We’ve got through because at the end of the day we sell an anti-recession product.”

“There’s only two things people have to do in their life: one is die and the other is eat.”

First sellers

Jackie Leonard and Sons Ltd was set up by Kate Leonard, who started trading from the Dublin Corporation fruit market on December 6th, 1892. She was one of the first sellers to take a stand at the market on St Michan’s Street.

The stand sold fruit and fish until her son Jack went into wholesaling vegetables, also opening a shop on North King Street. Since then, the fruit and vegetable supplier has passed from father to sons, on down to Justin and his brother Derek, who now runs Leonard Potato Merchants Ltd.

From the time he first went into the business in 1986, Justin says it has moved from being a vegetable wholesaler to servicing Dublin restaurants, hotels, nursing homes and greengrocers. It now supplies about 120 outlets.