My amiable old landlord Chris may have hung up his cleaver in his butcher’s shop on Dublin’s Wexford Street, but the aptly named evergreen greengrocer a few doors down is still in business, his cornucopia of customers spilling through the door and running through the shelves to the Stop with all imaginable fresh products.
Hey, shoot the breeze with Michelle Madden née Horan, the Mayo-born mother of six, who co-hosts this show with her Dubliner husband Damian.
She’s something of an evergreen goddess herself, with her flowing curls, striking blue eyes, and slender body, who’s busy unpacking boxes while warning a customer not to overdo the potatoes he’s just bought to cook, “or you’ll have a pot of crap she’ll throw at you,” before offering another customer’s dog his regular treat, a cherry tomato.
“Do you know where to find a defibrillator?” she asks me. “Because as a population, I think we need to know things like this – but until we’re made aware of them, we don’t think about them.”
It happened the other day and Michelle has since found two of these life saving machines so she’ll be ready for the next emergency. “Because I’m here and people always ask me questions. We are part of the village, not just a shop.”
If we don’t support local businesses, they will be gone. And then, whether you’re in Ireland, Australia or New York, you’ll be shopping in the same supermarkets
Michelle describes this corner of the city center as such, ‘because I come from a small village and everyone here knows everyone and almost knows your shop, like in an Irish country village’.
“In my innocence,” she says, laughing. “I thought if I came to a city I would be anonymous. Well, you absolutely are not! You can’t walk up and down the street without someone saying hello.”
This daughter of mother’s milk farmers still travels west every month “because I love the country.”
“Being in the city center I love the people. But I also love the fresh air and the freedom and the feeling of the wind in your hair. And i love animals. There’s nothing quite like being at home and the sheep and lambs are all out in the fields and it’s getting dewdrop time in the evenings and everyone is going and playing. It’s just pure, innocent magic.”
However, behind the impressive fact that Evergreen celebrates its 29th anniversary this month is sheer hard work. Although the future is far from certain as visitor numbers in the area have been decimated since Covid.
“Those who work in the public sector have no idea how bad the consequences were.”
Certainly, I always approach this part of my old neck of the forest with trepidation. The city center has changed drastically in recent years, with more and more Irish shops disappearing to be replaced everywhere by global retail and coffee chains and supermarkets.
“They’re busy promoting that they’re reducing their plastic packaging,” says Michelle wryly. “Now it’s become a trend, while we’ve never packaged anything that wasn’t essential. But we don’t have their advertising and marketing budget, so people don’t realize it.”
Evergreen and The Corner Butcher up the road offered free delivery to customers in lockdown when supermarkets ran out of slots, only to see those customers return to the big chains once the crisis ended. The uncertainty they endure is shared by small independent businesses across the country.
“I think we have that identity as a country with all these lovely local producers, whether it’s some of the people [whose goods are] on my shelves, or someone with their own business; those little places we all love that are like a comfort blanket in your own little village, in every village in the country.
“But if we don’t support them, they will be gone. And then it doesn’t matter if you’re in Ireland or Australia or New York because you’ll be shopping in the same supermarket. And we’ll be a sterile world. I think that’s a crime and I think that in Ireland we’re worse at letting that go than a lot of other European areas.”
The survival of each of these oases depends on the choices we make as consumers. Because not only the fresh products from Evergreen are perishable.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/lay-of-the-land-its-time-we-got-behind-all-our-essential-evergreen-grafters-41910090.html Lay of the Land: It’s time we got behind all of our important evergreen slips