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‘People still need to eat’

Last update - Thursday, August 6, 2009, 17:33 By Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson meets Bimbo John Oluwayose of Bimdoc Enterprises, one of the first retailers to meet the demands of Ireland’s growing African community

‘Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life’ – if this expression is true, then Bimbo John Oluwayose hasn’t worked in over a decade.
“I have a real love for food,” says the proprietor of Bimdoc Enterprises. “That was part of my inspiration to start the business. I thought, I love food, so why not give this a go?”
Twelve years later, Bimdoc is the largest distributor of Afro-Caribbean food in Ireland, supplying hundreds of stores across the country with everything from fresh and dried foods (including its own brand of pounded yam) to frozen chips for fast food restaurants, soft drinks and African alcohol. 
Bimdoc has expanded from Dublin (where Oluwayose trades both wholesale and retail from Bimdoc’s Cash and Carry in Dolphin’s Barn) to include offices in Cork and Galway, and even supplied to shops in Sweden and Holland.
“It’s wonderful to get to be able to share food with everyone who comes into the shop,” says Oluwayose.
While he may now be one of the largest merchants of Afro-Caribbean food in Ireland, Oluwayose came from Nigeria at a time when African faces were still very rare in the Emerald Isle.
“I came to Ireland on 14 July 1984,” he recalls. “In those days, you wouldn’t see many black people in Ireland. I don’t think we were even up to 50 in those days!”
Oluwayose originally moved to Northern Ireland to study at Queen’s University in Belfast.  On holiday from his studies, He first came to Dublin on a visit with some school friends, and decided to stay.
“I really fell in love with Dublin,” he says. “I had my first daughter here in 1989, and have never wanted to leave Ireland since.” 
As more and more African immigrants began to flock to Ireland in the 1990s, prompting a strong demand for foods and products from home, Oluwayose was able to start and expand his business. But he has also noticed an increased interest among the native Irish.
“We are starting to have a lot of local Irish making enquiries about African foods and how to cook them, especially yams,” he says proudly. “Yams are like sweet potatoes, so I guess the Irish are used to them.
“They also are coming in for chili peppers to add spice to their soups. And they really like bottled Nigerian Guinness, which is very strong at 7.5 per cent alcohol and has quinine in it, so it helps with fevers and headaches.”
Like everyone else in the retail sector, Bimdoc’s business has been hit by the worldwide recession. But after 25 years in Ireland, and with a decade of success behind him, Olu-wayose is far from giving up.
“It’s been hard for us lately because a lot of ethnic minorities are leaving Ireland for the UK or wherever there may be better job prospects,” he says. “Sales are down for the moment, but we will weather the storm here in Ireland. I still love food, and people still need to eat.”

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