Change is always a daunting challenge: its hard to give up something of value, or to adapt to new ways — but for Wicklow man Steven Rawson, he has stepped up to that challenge with his latest venture. Learn the story behind the family that has gone from over 20 years of running phone shops, to café owners. I met with Steven and Eilish Rawson, the new owners of Halpin’s Café, to learn what they have in store for one of Wicklow Town’s most recognisable cafés.
“Owning a café, it isn’t really something I ever thought of in the past,” Steven tells me. “I’ve always been interested in food, and had been in the market for a new opportunity for some time. But when I heard Halpin’s was up for sale, I was definitely intrigued; it has a reputable name and a really good location, and low and behold here we are now!”
Steven has been a key member of the community for his entire working career. An expert in telecommunications and mobile phones, he has owned phone shops around Wicklow that many of you will recognise him from, namely Straight Talk Communications or the Eir retail store in Wicklow Town. Now he’s taken a left turn and moved into a completely new sector, but with his wife Eilish at his side, they’re ready for the challenge.
The Rawsons have been with Halpin’s for just two weeks now so it’s early days, but they have been working hard since day one to get up to speed: “We want to be able to do all the jobs involved in a café to have a proper understanding of the ins and outs. Whether that’s cleaning tables, serving customers or helping out in the kitchen, we’re here to get stuck in and learn,” Eilish said.
“That wouldn’t be possible without the staff there”, Steven added. “They are some of the most eager and welcoming people I’ve met. I can confidently say they’ve made it much easier for us to find our feet and we can wait to grow the business with them.”
Drop into Halpin’s today and you’re sure to be met with charming hospitality from two sets of sisters Rachel and Louise Peake, or Melanie and Denise Downes — all four have plenty of experience in the restaurant and café trade. And it would be a sin to not mention Patrick Delaney, “Halpin’s charismatic charmer” says Eilish and Steven.
Changing the business drastically is not something on the menu for the new owners – Halpin’s is already a busy café with a lovely returning customer base. It has a fantastic 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor with over 200 reviews, and a near perfect 4.9 star rating on Facebook. Eilish said maintaining the relationships already established is imperative for them: “Maintaining and growing what’s already built in Halpin’s is very important for us. Wicklow Town is a fantastic family town and we want Halpin’s to grow with the town and community.
The namesake of the café carries the history of one of Wicklow’s most famous people, Robert Halpin, and the Rawson’s are delighted to be able to celebrate his legacy. You can find a piece of cable that was laid across the transatlantic by Halpin, above the arches in the café. “We’ve had many tourists around lately because of the nice weather, and the café has almost been like the start of their journey around the town,” Eilish says.
“Many arrive in at breakfast and we guide them on a journey through the town, just like Halpin did with the cable across the sea. We guide them to visit the pier before heading down the quays to meet Sammy the Seal and The Fishman. From there, follow on to see the Black Castle before heading back to the town to check out Wicklow Gaol, and then on through all the attractions in the Main Street.”
If you haven’t ever been to Halpin’s or are looking to re-familiarise yourself with it, I suggest dropping in for a quick morning breakfast. Having only been there for lunch until recently, I popped in for a coffee on my way to work. I ended up staying for a full breakfast, and it hit the spot so well its somewhere I’ll be frequenting to make me want to get out of bed! Without a doubt it would work nicely as a spot for “the cure” on a Saturday or Sunday morning for you weekend enthusiasts.
Not a morning person? Then head in for lunch and try their jerk chicken sandwich. It has to be the signature dish there and without a doubt their most popular dish – for a reason! Pair it with their coffee and you are set for one of the best lunches in Wicklow Town.
No drastic menu changes are planned yet, but Eilish and Steven have a few ideas in mind that they can’t wait to bring to customers. “We want to add a couple of tweaks and seasonal dishes for people to try. We also want to see if we can get more involved with local produce suppliers and community events like the Taste of Wicklow are definitely on the cards for the future.”
Why not call in to Halpin’s today to meet the lovely team or wish the Rawson’s well with their new venture? You can learn more about the café on their website http://www.halpinscafe.com/ or on their Facebook page.