A BOHO entrepreneur is making a name for herself running a specialist sweet shop in Malta.
Sarah McGourty, daughter of Eileen McKenzie, principal at Killyhommon Primary School and Tony McGourty from Belcoo started ‘Miss Ellen’s Travelling Treats’ with her Maltese boyfriend Sandro and the business has even attracted Hollywood attention, featuring on the set of Angelina and Brad Pitt’s latest film.
Drawing from 13 years experience at Neven Maguire’s MacNean Restaurant, Sarah studied Hospitality Management at the University of Galway and during a placement in Malta met her boyfriend, who also works in the business. In 2013 it all began with a permanent shop now in place along with the mobile van.
“It was during the two year period after college that my mother came up with the idea of me opening a sweet shop, she read an article on one of the Irish papers about how old time sweet shops were booming during the recession and she thought the concept could work well in Malta, as the Maltese have very sweet tooths.
“I wasn’t instantly taken with the idea, I had always planned to open a cafe, so this was the mindset I was in. However after giving it some thought and discussing it with my boyfriend we came up with the idea of having a mobile sweet shop. As Malta is one of the sunniest countries In the Mediterranean I thought it would be perfect.”
Using a 1954 Citroen H Van Sarah and Sandro travel Malta in the van selling everything from traditional sweets such as pear drops and bonbons to American, British and Australian candies and have a shop in the heart of the island.
“We are slowly changing the habits of the Maltese as they would not be familiar with boiled sweets like we would be at home, items such as Apple and Custards. We also stock a wide selection of sugar free sweets which are popular with the health conscious people and some of the older generations who suffer with diabetes.”
The distinctive van has also been used at weddings, birthday parties, company Christmas parties, fashion shows and photoshoots for designer clothes stores, attracting huge interest.
“To date one of our most memorable experiences was being asked to have the van on the set of Angelina and Brad Pitt’s upcoming film ‘By the Sea’. Although we are not sure how many times it will feature we are quite excited to see it. The film was recorded on Malta’s sister island of Gozo and for filming the van was emptied of all the sweets and used as the vintage vehicle it is.”
The van has also featured in several magazines and newspapers , while Sarah has been on two television shows talking about all things sweet related.
So far five Fermanagh families have sampled ‘Miss Ellen’s Travelling Treats’, the most recent being local councillor Bernice Swift who was on holiday in Malta recently.
“It is lovely to meet people from Fermanagh and even Ireland in general, for them its something completely different as we don’t have the weather at home to allow for a business like this, so there is the novelty factor and they love discussing it and asking where the idea came from.”
And does she have any plans to come home and set up the business in Fermanagh?
“I come home only once or twice a year, as we have the ‘two’ outlets and there is only the two of us, it can be difficult to get away. At the moment I don’t plan to return to rainy Fermanagh, I would like to be able to spend more time at home throughout the year, but at the moment I am enjoying the sunshine and Maltese lifestyle. It is a lot more relaxed, than life at home, it’s just the Mediterranean way of life, constantly outside, meeting for coffees and drinks.”
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