Brothers in arms . . . or pistols at dawn? What’s life like for brothers who work together in the food business?
Conor, who’s younger by 18 months, was modelling after graduating from London art college St Martins when Marc rang and asked if he’d like to go into business with him in Bia Bar on Dublin’s Stephen’s Street, around a decade ago. Becoming business partners meant carving out a distinct set of roles. At the start “we were both doing each other’s jobs,” Marc says. Hence those bar brawls. Now they have strictly defined areas that play to their strengths, Conor’s artistic eye for turning blank spaces into cafes and Marc’s front-of-house people skills. “It helps that we’re different.” Do they have any regrets about going into business together? “It’s never felt like a bad decision. It’s not the easiest thing to do in Dublin at the moment and we’ve pondered over moving to different places. But you can’t beat the people in Dublin.”
That chalk and cheese aspect, where two different personalities work well together, is a big feature of cheesemongers, Séamus and Kevin Sheridan’s dynamic. Kevin, younger by six years, went west in the summers as a teenager to work in Séamus’s restaurant, The Blue Raincoat in Galway (now Ard Bia at Nimmos), where he fell into a “wonderful world of food”.
He enjoyed it so much he decided to study sculpture in Galway, and on completion of his degree the brothers opened Food Nation, their first shop. Kevin used his sculpture ability with an angle grinder to help build the shop. A stall at the Galway Market followed and Sheridans Cheesemongers took off.
With two decades of experience of working together they’re well placed to say what’s the best thing and worst thing about working with a brother.
“He’s the hardest working person I know,” Séamus says of Kevin. “From the very start he was the one putting up the stall at 6am and sending for the coffee. When I look back over the last 20 years, we’ve had fires, robberies, sad passings, building warehouses, financial crises, opening shops, closing shops, painting shops and all the crazy things that happen while running a cheese business. There is not much I don’t like about working with my little brother.”
On the other side, Kevin sees Séamus simply as “My big brother. He inspires me. He will always be my brother so no matter what either of us do to annoy each other the next day we’re still brothers.”