The tiny shiny van that could
3 MIN READ
Banba’s Crown at Malin Head is as far as north as you can get on the island of Ireland.
40 miles north of Derry, 100 miles north of Belfast.
Go east from here and the nearest town is Ayr in Scotland. Go west and you’ll find yourself in Quebec.
What if you fancy a coffee?
The ‘vroom’ with a brew
Visitors to this very rugged and extremely remote spot are often surprised not only to find a coffee van there but to discover that it serves fantastic coffee and home-baked cakes.
How did such a tiny (and shiny) van find its way to Ireland’s most northerly tip?
The three-wheel van is the brainchild of husband and wife couple Dominic and Andrea McDermott who run Caffé Banba.
The van first parked up there in May 2008, when they drove it the 1km from their house in Ballyhillion at a modest 10 kph.
Time enough to appreciate the rugged scenery.
Frappucchino in a force 10, anyone?
Everything was going well until the September weather hit Malin Head, the van and its customers.
Breezy is putting it mildly.
Dominic and Andrea suddenly had to find an alternative to being blown into the wild Atlantic so they decided to take swap three wheels for four walls.
“We found a fantastic location and a great landlord and with a whole lot of work we built a coffee shop in Cardonagh.”
A coffee shop built for 2 + 2
There was just one small drawback.
It could only seat four people.
If you were lucky enough to nab a seat you would be sitting only a couple of feet from Dominic or Andrea at the coffee machine.
Naturally, the couple found themselves contributing to every conversation.
At first they were open three days a week but soon the shop was open all seven days.
The business was a success but there was still that problem with size.
But the couple who only started with a van weren’t going to let that stop them.
“People used to pop along, peek in the window and if those four seats were taken they would go elsewhere.”
The answer lay close to home
The couple looked everywhere for just the right premises.
Everywhere that is except for right across the road where a supermarket had lain empty for seven years.
At first, it seemed too big.
But the more they started to think about it, the more they realised it might just be what they’d been looking for all along.
Luckily one of their regulars happened to be the Bank Manager at Bank of Ireland.
So they picked up the phone and in less than a week they had the money in their account and they’d started work on the new shop.
“I can look at the shop and know I painted every square inch and I built everything with help from my mate Dave.”
More dough needed for a new bakery
A year on from that first loan the business had doubled in size and is still growing. Dominic and Andrea now have 13 people working for them.
And, guess what, they’re running out of space again.
In January 2016, they went back to the Bank of Ireland and took out another loan and got the money to help them build a new bakery.
“At 5am, we’re woken by the sounds of the baking staff arriving and turning the mixers on.”
And they needed it.
Because all their baking was still happening at their home in a small extension at back of their house.
By building a new, bigger bakery at the shop they could increase production, fulfil more orders, add things like a gluten-free room and get a slice of their home life back.
The work-life balance
Is it tricky balancing life and work as a couple in business together?
There are times when one of them feels down, says Dominic, but the great thing is that you know you always have somebody right by your side to pull you through.
Find out more
Learn more about our loans for small businesses.
Read more about Caffe Banba.