If you build it, they will come. I’m not sure if Laura McEvoy and Stephanie Myerscough were hearing voices - like Kevin Costner in ‘Field of Dreams’ - when they decided to open a café in their tiny West Co Wicklow village, but after just a few years in business, we can report that their business, Grangecon Kitchen, is enjoying a similar happy ending to the iconic film.

I dig into a few of their menu items: savoury Turkish eggs (warmed, garlicky yoghurt with poached eggs, fresh dill and a spicy ‘Nduja and chilli butter drizzle), slices of fresh sourdough and fluffy ricotta pancakes with soft rhubarb and orange syrup.

While, for the two friends, “building it” meant erecting a large tent with space heaters and picnic tables to accommodate larger numbers of diners, we realise that it’s as much their approach to food and hospitality which makes this rural eatery so special.

Laura and Stephanie are living proof that opening a small food business (with minimal initial investment) in rural Ireland can work if, in their words, you are “willing to give 200%, all the time.”


“We’re great friends,” Laura tells me. “Eleven years ago, we met through our husbands who both work in the horse racing industry. We used to drive past the building and think, ‘It’s so picturesque.’ We both always secretly had a dream of opening a little place.”

Before entering into a rental agreement for the building and opening the cafe in 2019, the two were working as teachers and were busy with their families. In the end, the idea that they could bring something special to the community was too strong to ignore. They were always obsessed with food – Laura would experiment with sourdough bread and Stephanie had hoped to open a cafe in Dublin in her 20s.

\ Philip Doyle

“I was nearly there,” she recalls. “I went to the bank manager in Ranelagh and said I had found a premises and the bank manager, at the time, said: ‘I just don’t think Ranelagh is the place for a cafe.’ And look at Ranelagh now! But everything happens at the right time for a reason.”

Taking the plunge

They say that neither of their families were surprised when they decided to open Grangecon Kitchen. There might have been some concern about the lack of traffic in the small village, but the friends were driven by the belief that they could be successful.

\ Philip Doyle

“I showed my mom the place before we opened and she thought we were mad,” Stephanie laughs. “I think maybe one car went by the whole time she was waiting outside.”

In the beginning, the two were the only employees at Grangecon Kitchen. Looking back, they admit they put too much pressure on themselves.

Philip Doyle

“We were trying to juggle three kids, husbands, here and all of the menu items,” Laura recalls.

“You justify [the extreme amount of work] by saying: ‘It’s just a soup, or it’s just this [small thing],’” Stephanie echoes, “but it all takes time. If COVID-19 hadn’t come to give us the break we needed … we were able to take that time to reassess.”

Challenge accepted

When the first COVID-19 lockdown hit in 2020, the pair pressed pause on the cafe for a month before reopening with a takeaway menu. They also developed their website, enabling customers to order online for pick-up. When things started to reopen, they realised that their garden space, which just had a few park benches, was being used by customers to have socially distanced coffees. They decided to go one step further to create a safe dining space.

\ Philip Doyle

“At the time we could fit about 24 people inside – the tables were huddled together and not very COVID friendly. But then a friend said: ‘I have a tent if you want to borrow it,’ and this is it. And it’s been great; we’re so grateful to them,” Stephanie says.

Laura and Stephanie of Grangecon Kitchen in Grangecon, Co Wicklow. \ Philip Doyle

The tent can comfortably seat up to 60 people and was ideal during the ?pandemic when outdoor dining was allowed. Now that the restrictions are lifted, the pair are still making use of the tent and are planning an upgrade – with a new tent of a similar size ordered for the end of this month. They plan to have an open stove in the centre and will use the space for pop-up events and weekend evening meals, which will commence in the coming weeks.

Worthwhile investments

Laura and Stephanie say they were slow to invest in their business, but their measured approach ensured that they spent money on things which helped it flourish. They received a small amount of LEADER funding when they first opened, which helped them purchase baking equipment and get started. All in, they invested roughly €5,000 each of their own money at the start, which was matched in LEADER funding.

\ Philip Doyle

They currently employ eight full-time staff and several other part-time staff members, who work through the busy weekend brunch services.

“Because it’s rural, you would think we’d have a problem retaining staff, but the floor staff are all young, they all live in the area and they seem to really enjoy it here,” Stephanie says.

Cost control

Like all small businesses, the increase in energy costs and overheads are concerning, but not something the pair feel can’t be managed with careful cost control.

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“It’s very important to do price comparisons [on ingredients] as well,” Laura says. “It’s looking at all these things without compromising our standards. We are lucky to have lovely suppliers near us [like Castleruddery and Ballyhubbock]. We grow a good bit, as well, ourselves. Stephanie’s husband, David, grows all the microgreens we use on the menu, for example.”


Creating a business with a good friend, as opposed to a family member, has some serious benefits. One of those is the potential for a decent work-life balance for the co-owners. When one goes on holiday, they can relax knowing the other is there managing things. They take turns taking days off and if they need to collect their children from school or run errands, they can.

“It’s funny though,” Stephanie says. “I feel like it’s not the same when Laura isn’t here – it’s not as fun.”

Laura and Stephanie of Grangecon Kitchen in Grangecon, Co Wicklow. \ Philip Doyle

“The amount of text messages between the two of us is insane,” Laura laughs. “But you do have to draw the line when you have little ones at home. You don’t want them growing up thinking: ‘Mum only cares about the cafe.’”

Bustling business

Diners come from all over to eat at Grangecon; from Dublin, Kilcullen or Blessington in one direction and Carlow, Kilkenny or Athy in the other. Laura and Stephanie are especially thrilled with their tent system and how it enabled their business to grow in a relatively low-cost way.

“Evening pop-ups are always a big hit here,” says Laura. “We cater to all the locals, but people are really willing to travel to come here, as well.”

Visit grangeconkitchen.ie

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