Words and Photography by Leanne Magill
Most of us don’t know what we want to do when we leave education, we feel the pressure from the world around us asking ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ However for Meagan, watching her Mum making the famous craft Graham’s ice cream and serving customers she knew exactly what she wanted to pursue.
Meagan says, ‘I love ice cream… everything about it!! My mum used to set me on the counter in my car seat as a baby and as soon as I could walk, I was on my tip toes peering over the counter smiling away at the customers, I just loved the buzz of shop life! One of my favourite places to be is the parlour, where the magic happens!! I stick my headphones on and the process begins, nothing beats the smell of freshly brewing ice cream, I never get sick of it!’
I adore Meagan’s passion for what she is doing, after all if you don’t love what you do, if you aren’t having fun then whats the point in spending the most of your working life in something you aren’t happy with? I firmly believe that if you have an emotional investment in something, if you put your heart into it, you will succeed.
Taking on the family business has had its own challenges, although the demand was already there for this delicious ice cream, innovation is important to keep ahead of the ever growing ice cream market. Meagan knew to ask herself ‘what makes my product and service unique?’ developing ideas from that and being open to changes.
‘I knew from an early age that I wanted to run the family business so as soon as I finished up GCSE’s that’s what I did! Obviously since I took over a family business I can’t give advice on what it takes to start up one but what I can say, is that when you’re the next generation to take on an already established business, you have to do something new, something to put your stamp on it. I feel I’ve done this with the introduction of doing weddings, many of which Leanne and me have been at together! Doing more outside catering, such as charity events, sports days and fundraisers.
Our shop in Kilkeel has a milkshake station which is really taking off, Oreo Milkshakes being our most popular! Also the look and style of the shop has changed over the years, we get so many compliments for our sign boards and sayings, all down the very talented Sarah Johnston, she’s something else and I can’t thank her enough for constantly keeping up with me and my forever changing styling!’
Watching the ice cream being mixed is a glorious sight as it flips and folds around the dish and wow the smell although Meagan says, ‘with old fashioned ice cream comes old machinery and it requires a lot of care and maintenance. The mixer and i have a love/hate relationship, it tests my patience sometimes and there has been plenty of tears, huffs and maybe a little kicking… but for the most part it’s my favourite thing and I look after it as best I can day in day out. Also a big shout out to Raymond and the lads down the harbour who helped me out this year when the machine was as good as done back in Jan until they fixed it up for me, I am forever grateful!’
With ice cream being a seasonal business in Northern Ireland, it can get very quiet in the winter months so Meagan has another string to her bow. ‘I’m also a qualified classroom assistant and in the winters when I have to close up shop that’s what I do, the kids only ever call me “Miss Grahams Ice Cream” but I’m more than happy to been known as that !!
If you haven’t been to Graham’s Ice Cream shop in Kilkeel, you must put this on your do to list. Not only will you leave with a delicious desert but will receive top quality customer service from Meagan and/or any of her staff. I personally have always been greeted with a smile and do you know what, sometimes a smile is all you need to change your mood, well a smile and some ice cream!
Meagan is so grateful to all her customers, with many becoming friends along the way ‘ you’re the reason I love my job’.
‘My advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in something they love is to just go for it, stick at it when things get tight, work your bum off, do the early mornings and late nights but always find time to chill and make time for family and friends. And if all else fails, it’s a known fact that ice cream makes everything better so just come to Grahams, there’s nothing an ice cream can’t fix!!’