Sometimes, all we want to do is pick up sticks and move somewhere new, somewhere fresh, where you can leave the stress of work life behind. To many this is just a fantasy, or can only last for a short weekend.
This is not the case for Lorraine Quinn, a Belfast-born businesswoman who left the hustle and bustle of four successful restaurants behind in favour of a life of tranquillity, and a little gift shop called Harbour Road in Bunbeg, Gaoth Dobhair.
Harbour Road, a quirky little gift shop selling Irish-made and designed gifts, opened its doors at the beginning of June 2017. The shop is stocked with handmade products and trinkets you won’t find on the high street, “you’ll only find them here”, Lorraine explains, “and I’ve searched for things that aren’t from Donegal so I have a lot of things you won’t find anywhere else nearby. Hopefully that will draw people in”.
Lorraine never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Having previously studied and worked in hospitality, her first business venture, alongside her partner, was to open a restaurant in Northumberland, England.
She explains, “I never ever thought of having my own business - I think when I was younger it probably just sounded way off. I always thought I could work somewhere or manage somewhere, work for somebody else. Things just happened that we got a restaurant in England. My partner’s a great chef and we did very well, and out of that we got opportunities to open more.”
The couple eventually came to run four restaurants in the area, but chose to move on from the busy catering life in favour of the quiet life in Gaoth Dobhair.
“The reason why we stopped all that is because it became too much. We grew too much, there was too much pressure, we thought no, we’ll scale back and take time out.”
Having travelled to the area many times in the past, the family fell in love with the tranquillity of the wild Atlantic shore.
“We loved Donegal, obviously we loved coming here on holidays, and we thought, right, we’re going to get a house here, we thought let’s just do it and let’s just have a complete change.”
The change in location also brought about a change in career for Lorraine. “I’ve always liked the creative side of the business, like doing lovely displays and making things look pretty. I like to make things look nice.”
Her plans originally were to develop an online store, stocking products similar to what she now has in Harbour Road. Although she still plans to move to online, Lorraine seized the opportunity to open a shop in the area. “I thought there’s something missing in this area so I thought let’s just open the shop and the e-commerce side can come after.”
She has big plans for Harbour Road, constantly expanding her stock range and searching for new and exclusive items. She’s very committed to maintaining her vision of the style of the shop, celebrating Irish designers and makers for their individuality and beauty.
Having initially sourced many items from the RDS Crafts and Design Fair, Lorraine now gathers much of her stock through Instagram or from local people bringing their crafts to her. She is soon to be working with a local knitter, commissioning her to use Donegal wool to create items exclusively for Harbour Road.
Lorraine has a very clear message for anyone considering opening his or her own business. She says, “Just go for it. If you have a really good idea and if you believe in yourself just take the risk, and don’t listen to any negativity. If you’ve got a strong vision and you really think you can do something then go for it. You can only try and if it fails then at least you’ve given it a shot because a lot of people always dream about things, saying I wanted to do this or that. I’ve had people say this to me in here, and I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’”