Brothers in arms . . . or pistols at dawn? What’s life like for brothers who work together in the food business?
That route through sport and nutrition led them back to Greystones and setting up their wholefood shop, The Happy Pear. They were “ridiculously idealistic” at the start, Stephen says, considering running it as an NGO to spread their message of health through food.
Would he have gone into business without David? “I’ve never really thought of that. It would be like someone asking ‘could you do it without yourself?’ ”
Their younger brother Darragh joined the enterprise five years ago when he started growing wheat grass and sprouted seeds for them. Now he’s running a friend’s cherry farm and selling the produce in Greystones and beyond.
Another food business that brought two brothers together from far-flung locations is Murphy’s Ice Cream run by the American Murphy brothers. Kieran, the eldest, got sick of the software business and left his job in the US. He came to his parents’ house in Dingle, Co Kerry to “hang out for a while” and consider what to do next. Slowly it dawned on him that he wanted to stay in Ireland.
Food seemed like an obvious choice if he was going to set up a business and “like most outsiders” he was amazed at the quality of Irish dairy. Growing up there had been a “huge emphasis on food”. The brothers were taught to cook as children. So he rang his brother Sean, who was living in California, and invited him to Paris.
The two met in Berthillon, the family-run French ice cream and sorbet shop on the Île Saint-Louis. It was a statement of intent. They weren’t just going to start a single ice cream stall in Dingle, they were going to aim high. “Eventually he [Sean] said yes. He had just met his wife-to-be and they were thinking about a family and Ireland seemed a great place.”
Why did Kieran chose his brother over a friend or an associate? “Two reasons. First it was kinda lonely and it would be nice to have family around,” Kieran says. “And Sean is very extrovert, very good with people and I’m less so. I’m not a crotchety or mean person but I find it very draining to be with people all the time.” The brothers had lived apart for a very long time. “We didn’t really know each other as adults.” In the end the decision came down to the fact that it would be “far more fun to do it with someone I know and I trust.” His brother is “someone one can trust absolutely and completely,” he says.
Trust is a central theme with all the brothers I spoke to. The Flynn twins find that they can “make decisions really quickly because you know exactly what the other brother is thinking.” And they can be “very blunt and straight with each other” without worrying about the consequences. For non-twin brothers the years flatten out those age differences and big brother and kid brother. The difference between 40 and 44 is tiny compared to the difference between 10 and 14, Kieran Murphy says.
For Marc and Conor Bereen, the brothers behind Dublin restaurants Damson Diner and Coppinger Row, that brotherly ability to have a huge row and get over it as quickly again has been a trademark of their business relationship. “People used to come in to watch us behind the bar as we’d be having rows and shouting at each other. That worked quite well when we were younger but we’re a bit old for that now.” Even after a shouting match “we’d never hold onto anything”, Marc says, to the amazement of friends and customers. There were no grudges to fester and damage the relationship. “He’s my brother and I love him and that love is always there.”