The team behind Quay Co-op, the pioneering vegetarian and health food store in Cork City that has been at the forefront of social change for 40 years, has recreated a famous photograph to mark the milestone.
And its co-founder, Arthur Leahy, says the radical roots that drove them in the early days continue to inform their work today.
“I speak for all members of the Quay Co-op when I say we are so grateful to the people of Cork for their continued support, it means so much to us,” he said.
“Achieving this milestone anniversary is due to hard work, dedication and also that spark of alternative creativity that we see every day in the people who work here, come here and shop here.
“Today we face new challenges, nothing more than to ensure that our future generations can enjoy this beautiful planet respectfully in peace.”
The founders of the Quay Co-op refurbished a neglected former pawnshop on Sullivan’s Quay and opened its doors in May 1982. It soon became home to Cork’s first vegetarian restaurant and cafe, a food co-op, a bookshop, a women’s center and a crèche into a collective Effort by feminist, lesbian and gay, environmental and other alternative groups and individuals.
All hands were on board with the renovation project and the members carried out the work themselves.
A then-famous photo showed them leaning out of the windows of the three-story building. Today’s staff recreated this photo to celebrate their 40th birthday.
What began as a community cooperative during a period of rapidly rising unemployment has grown into a workers’ cooperative employing 750 people over the past four decades.
Today the cooperative employs 50 people in its vegetarian deli, bakery, health food store and restaurant on Sullivan’s Quay, its vegetarian food manufacturing facility on Cove Street and its branches in Carrigaline and Ballincollig. It is still owned by its members.
It now has three buildings at 24 Sullivan’s Quay and the premises on either side, one of which was formerly the headquarters of the Cork Fire Brigade.
The Quay Co-op has also been at the heart of some of Ireland’s most controversial movements, providing a safe space for countless debates and an area for those looking to organize against prejudice and for equality.
It has been a leader in social justice campaigns at the local and national levels, advocating for gay rights, women’s rights and environmental issues.
Quay Co-op general manager Simon Tiptaft said Ireland was a very different place in 1982.
“It was a time of rapidly rising unemployment and many people had no voice,” he said.
“Hundreds of people have worked at Quay Co-op over the years, but many have stayed there for decades.
“Our team and our members are very important to us. Our customers are also smart pioneers who spur us on to become better and better, to do more for the cause that enables us all to have a better future.
“As a workers’ co-op, we have a unique view of commerce – we’re not about profit – if we can break even while supporting jobs and the causes we care about, that will be well enough for the next 40 years.”
To commemorate the 40th anniversary, there will be a celebration on May 25th at the Upstairs at the Co-op restaurant to thank the supporters, suppliers and workers.