Morton’s of Ranelagh celebrates its 80th birthday!
Morton’s is a well-known Dublin grocer that is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. The grocer is famous for its own range of food, which is created in a full on-site kitchen with five chefs, using premium ingredients every day.
16 September 2014 | 0
Morton’s has a staff of 70 which is spread between the original shop on Dunville Avenue, and the elegant store opened in 2008 in the historic vaults of the Harcourt railway station on Hatch Street.
Gary Morton took over the family business and he combines his flair for retailing and commerce with his innate love of fine, local Irish food and good old-fashioned service. He spoke to ShelfLife about the business and what it means for his family to reach this milestone.
A: We are very proud that Morton’s is something of a southside institution as we celebrate our 80th birthday this year. On Dunville Avenue, tucked in just behind Ranelagh Village, Morton’s continues to be the local grocer for generations of loyal customers and their families.
Q: Who started the business and has it always been in the same premises?
A: My grandparents, Charles and Esther Morton opened a small fish and vegetable shop on Dunville Avenue in 1934. Almost 20 years later, Charles’ son Albert Morton, my father, opened a grocery shop on the corner of Dunville Avenue and Moyne Road. In the 1960s Charles and Esther, along with sons Albert and Charles bought the premises in between and combined their shops to create C. Morton & Sons on its current site. We have extended and modernised the premises over the years but our location remains the same.
Q: How many family members work in the business now?
A: The current (third) generation currently involved in the business includes brothers Gary and Alan and sister Tracey. Mum Iris, now retired, keeps a watchful eye on the goings on. We also have a truly wonderful staff and it is their expertise and commitment that brings our store to life.
Q: Creating fresh food in-store is an expensive business. How do you price your food correctly in order to remain competitive while still covering costs and making a profit?
A: It is a constant task to be vigilant about ingredients and costs but our commitment to quality and freshness have never changed. We acknowledge the principles of our suppliers and partners, many of whom we have worked with for decades.
Q: Do you think consumers are very conscious about where their food comes from and how it is made?
A: The simple answer to that is yes. Our customers like to be very well informed about the food they consume from its origin and nutritional value to its carbon footprint. Where possible Irish still continues to be best. We are happy that our customers trust the quality of the food in our store. In our store on Dunville Avenue we are very lucky to have a large bespoke kitchen. It is here that our chefs produce our extensive range of home cooked foods that we sell in both our stores. We make everything from first principles and use the very best ingredients we can source, many from local and artisanal suppliers, to present the finest quality fare from our salads, quiche, tarts and savoury foods to our cakes and baked treats. We are also delighted to have in store food partners of the calibre of James Lawlor’s Butchers and Sheridan’s Cheesemongers along with our own fishmonger, wine adviser and florist.
A: Morton’s currently employs over 70 staff, with around 50 in Dunville Avenue, and 20 in Hatch Street. Our longest serving member, now a retiree who pays us an occasional and welcome visit, is Mary Donagher. Mary was with us for over 40 years and on occasions agreed to babysit the current family members, a task she has now recovered from. We are proud that two of our current staff have been with us for over 30 years.
Q: You expanded the business a number of years ago and opened new premises on Hatch Street? How is this going?
A: Yes, in 2008 we opened a second store in Hatch Street in the stunning old Harcourt Railway building. Hatch Street continues to go from strength to strength. It is a dynamic shop with a young, vibrant customer base and has a different rhythm to Dunville Avenue. In Hatch Street we concentrate mostly on a great variety of gourmet sandwiches, quality coffee, nutritional juices and of course tasty offerings from Diep, our partners. There is always a steady flow of loyal, young professionals from the surrounding offices and a great buzz in-store as a result. We run exciting competitions on our Twitter @MortonsDublin from the Hatch Street store too.
Q: You also had a small coffee station beside the Luas but that has since closed. What happened there?
A: The store at the Beechwood Luas Station operated for over five years from 2005 – 2010. It suffered a similar fate to many other businesses when its cost base of rent and overheads were out of balance for the level of business. It has opened and closed since, and now recently it has become an interesting and attractive coffee outlet.
Q: Do you have any plans to expand in the future?
A: We are shortly to begin renovating and re-launching our café on Dunville Avenue.
Q: What do you think is the secret for longevity in business?
A: I think that it is usually a combination of many factors. We are fortunate and privileged to have loyal customers, families that have been coming through our doors for generations, and we pride ourselves on the warm relationship we have with them.
It is the case that our customers become more than customers, they become friends.