Limerick chocolatier hoping to taste success

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Minister Jimmy Deenihan with Brona and Dan O'Connor from Abbeyfeale at the recent launch of Brona Chocolates. Picture: John D Morris
AN ABBEYFEALE publican is hoping that turning his kitchen into a chocolate factory will be a recipe for success after he launched his own brand of sweets.

AN ABBEYFEALE publican is hoping that turning his kitchen into a chocolate factory will be a recipe for success after he launched his own brand of sweets.

Dan O’Connor, 44, an ex-builder and proprietor of The Cellar Bar on Bridge Street, has set out on a brave new career path after launching ‘Brona handmade chocolates’, a new brand of sweets which he has named after his five-year-old daughter.

Dan has navigated an unusual and unpredictable career path, which has taken him from builder to publican to artisan chocolatier.

“I had a big construction business, but I didn’t give construction up, it gave me up! I have a sweet shop in Tralee now, and we were getting in a large range of bars from the UK and Europe.

“We were also getting some locally produced chocolate, but not from any one producer - there were a range of brands. I started doing the research, took a few training courses, bought the machinery, and we started producing in March.”

Dan had worked in the construction industry for 25 years when the property crash hit and he was forced to press the reset button on his career. He said that he “always had an interest” in cooking and confectionery, and “took a chance” on opening a Mr Duffy’s traditional sweet shop outlet on The Mall in Tralee.

Dan, who lives in Listowel and is a native of Tarbert, was already balancing that business with his lease on The Cellar Bar in Abbeyfeale when he set out on creating his own range of chocolates. Within very little time he had converted the bar’s old kitchen into a chocolate production headquarters.

Dan said that his full range of chocolates, which was launched by Minister Jimmy Deenihan last Friday, now includes a total of 24 different flavours, from rocky road and fruit & nut to toffee and mocha.

Dan said that he and his wife Noreen are lucky to have their own crack tasting team on hand - his sons Tadhg, 8, Harry, 6 and daughter Brona, 5. Today, the chocolate is stocked in 15 stores from Tralee to Wexford, and can be found locally in Twohig’s SuperValu in Abbeyfeale, and shortly in Dooley’s SuperValu in Newcastle West.

“I’d love in two years to have six or eight people working for me. Every week, we’re getting a couple of new premises stocking it. We’d love to keep expanding”.

Brona Chocolates will have a dedicated website soon. For more information, contact sales@bronachocolates.com.