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A Coffee With: Emily and Killian Treacy of LUNA Coffee + Wine Killarney

We had a chat with the owners of Killarney’s much-loved LUNA Coffee + Wine

Killarney is (rightfully) considered a must-visit destination for tourists from all over the world and all over Ireland. In recent years, the Kerry town known for its incredible scenery – the Lakes of Killarney, Killarney National Park and the McGillyCuddy Reeks – has gained traction for its burgeoning food and drink scene, with plenty of fantastic restaurants and cafes to shout about, in addition to some of the finest hotels in the country.

We caught up with the siblings behind the very popular LUNA Coffee + Wine, Killian and Emily Treacy, to find out what it is about this cosy spot that has locals and tourists alike scrambling for a seat. Known for serving up fabulous natural wine and delicious dishes packed with artisan Irish ingredients, LUNA has become a must-visit destination in its own right when visiting Killarney.

What was the idea behind Luna?

Killian: Myself and Emily both left college, she went to New York and did various things and I worked in banking in Dublin, and then went to Australia and worked in banking there. Then, when Covid hit, we had to press pause on our lives and see what we actually want to do with ourselves. It certainly wasn’t banking for me, but we definitely saw ourselves getting back into hospitality. We didn’t have this dream like, ‘Oh, we’re going to open a deli and wine shop’, but open something, and it just kind of organically grew this way.

Emily: We had to ask ourselves ‘What does Killarney need?’. Especially during Covid, where a lot of people were still working away, there was a very real need for a middle of the road, casual lunch-time offering, but without compromising on quality at all.

Killian: We had wanted to open a business and we didn’t know what it was, and it originally started with a food truck.

Emily: We had actually even bought a food truck and kitted it out…

Killian: I guess staffing at the time was really tough, it was the middle of Covid. The laws around it are so strict, you need to be on private land with a food license, the carpark of a restaurant or a bar.

Emily: You can’t just pull up on a beach, there’s a lot of red tape. We came to a point where it was like we could do two things, or we could focus in on doing one thing well. There were some mornings here in winter, the rain was lashing down, and I thought to myself imagine being in a food truck in a soggy field right now! We’re so happy we’re able to walk into a brick and mortar now premises and close the door!

Was it originally the idea to make the cafe a day-time thing? Did you always want to venture into the cheese and wine side of things?

Killian: We wanted it to be an all-day offering – we didn’t want to close the door at 4 o’clock and be done. Given the location we have here, it’s really buzzy in the evening when the sun’s out.

Killian: Once we had nailed down what Luna was to be, coffee, pastries, sandwiches by day, natural wine and cheese by night, I reached out to Fabian Beick who runs Loose Cannon and Fruit Seller (a natural wine wholesaler) for some advice. Fabian very kindly offered the opportunity to come up to Dublin to Loose Canon and do a mini staige for a weekend last April. He was so generous with his time and gave me all the tips and advice on how to run the natural wine and cheese element of LUNA. He was so open with the information, he’s such a legend. Now, we continue to work with Fabian through Fruit Seller who supply a lot of the wine we have in house. Also Fabian came down to LUNA last year for a collaboration event where he took guests through a range of different natural wines, talking about how the grapes are grown, who the winemakers are etc (in most cases he has been to the very vineyards and met the winemakers so he knows what he’s talking about!). He has turned into such a good friend now as well.

Emily: It was insanely good, so valuable. Without that exposure, it would have taken us a long time to get things right.

I want to hear more about that because natural wine and Killarney doesn’t naturally fit

Emily: You’ll still get the odd person coming in saying “2 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc please!” and I’ll just say, “well I don’t quite have that pouring at the minute but we do have this delicious Catarrato from Sicily” and people are so open and willing to try anything, and getting them to taste something like that is really beautiful.

Killian: Coming out of Covid, people who were living in Dublin and Cork and now work fully remotely in Killarney, they’ve had a taste of the city life, they’ve had a taste of natural wine in Loose Canon, and now they’re delighted this is here for them.

It seems fairly obvious right now that the local trade is strong with plenty of regulars?

Killian: Yes indeed, we especially see that in winter, with no Americans around, and nobody could sit outside, so it was like Tetris mode trying to fit people inside with so many locals.

Emily: We closed for five weeks in early 2023, and both of us went travelling. We came back and people were like ‘Oh, thank God!’ Because, you know in January there’s not a lot going on, so we opened in February and we were so blown away by the reaction, people were so happy to see us back open, it was so lovely to come back.

Where does the fascination with amazing food come from?

Emily: We grew up working in hotels from a very young age so we were always exposed to it. I will say, the hotels are very food-focused, and very adventurous, always working with the freshest, most local suppliers and ingredients. As a result, the suppliers are our friends, they come in with all their leafy greens and [ask] which tomatoes we want and it is great to have those relationships.

Killian: Probably being all around the world too, any time I visit a new city or anything it’s pretty much a food tour, sightseeing mostly the restaurants and bars! Sustainability is a big passion for us too – we’re supplying all Irish producers, all of our wines are natural, our coffee is from West Cork coffee, he has a really close relationships with the farmers in Brazil, he’s not just a bulk buyer. We try to follow through on all our practices here, like the Killarney Coffee Cup Project.

How is the Coffee Cup Project going, tell us a bit more about this fantastic initiative?

Emily: Really good, it’s so much better than you would have expected. I cannot commend the people of Killarney enough for embracing it wholeheartedly. That makes it worth it. Locals are delighted with the initiative and are really proud of Killarney for making this change for the betterment of the town and the National Park. We now have over 50 businesses taking part in the project. There are only two cafes in the town that have chosen to opt out of the project and continue using single use cups but I hope they will see the benefits of the project sooner rather than later and come on board.

Killian: It’s important that it’s a Killarney initiative, it’s important to remind people of that, not to say it’s Luna. We did this because we’ve a 22 thousand acre National Park on our doorstep, it’s our playground, it’s why people visit Killarney, so it makes perfect sense to put this initiative in to protect the thing you’ve actually got people coming here to see. And people are like, ‘Oh yeah perfect.’ You even have Americans that arrive here, they’ve had their keep cup that they’ve actually brought in their suitcase for this trip, because they’ve been told in their pre-arrival email from the hotel, that Killarney is single use cup-free. Any conservation town around the world, they all have these initiatives by all the National Parks in the states, no plastic bottles, they have to use reusable etc, so why would Killarney be any different?

What would you say to towns around the country that want to get involved?

Killian: Just get together and go through the positives of it: it protects your local environment, its an amazing brand for the town, it is going save your customers money because there’s a latte levy coming in, there will be a 20c surcharge on all single-use cups, so it will allow you to keep the cost of coffee the same for your customers.

Emily: It was incredible as well, because we didn’t know any of the other coffee shop owners, and now we have a huge network of a similar community.

Killian: Killarney has such a can-do attitude – it was the first town in Ireland to ban election posters around the town, first town in Ireland to appoint a Green councillor, it’s in Killarney’s ethos. You see it in the Christmas parade, the Fourth of July parade, the Killarney chamber – everyone’s so invested in going the same way.

Emily: The advice would be to be open, let everybody have their piece, and don’t shy away from it saying it’s going to be too hard. You can see people’s behaviour changing, it’s incredible, humans can adapt to anything, even bringing their cup with them!

You put so much work into having a fantastic social media presence. Does this drive a lot of business?

Emily: I think definitely with the locals. Every Monday our menu changes, different salads, different pastries, so we don’t get sick of anything and that always keeps it fresh for our social media.

Killian: She’s being modest, I would say definitely. Roz Purcell was down for the Wander Wild Festival last March and posted us on her Instagram and the followers blew up after that.

Emily: Within 48 hours, it was just incredible organic growth overnight. We like to bring a lot of fun in with the reels and TikToks too.

How do you find working together as siblings?

Killian: It’s actually really good, we’re very different and it works so well together.

Emily: I’d be more creative, with menu creation and socials. Killian does all the nitty gritty stuff that I don’t do. Ordering, invoicing, everything like that. Any time we sit down… we bounce ideas very well off each other and we can also call each other out, which is also helpful.

I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from your siblings, Marcus who runs The Killarney Park Hotel and Ciara, who’s behind The Ross Hotel?

Emily: I have to say Ciara is the one who introduced us to natural wine, we were all happy drinking wine from a box in college! She always hosts dinners and there’s wine and good food in the house – they know how to eat and drink well! She would talk us through the different natural wines she was serving and we slowly started to develop a taste for it. She also introduced us to White Mausu, Chimac, Harry’s Nutbutter – all of the best artisan Irish products that we needed too and stocking them in LUNA was a natural next move.

Killian: Marcus is always so very supportive too and great to bounce ideas off of on the business side of things.

Tell us about some of the unique things happening at Luna and what are you looking forward to?

Emily: Karen Coakley, the Kenmare Foodie, started running weekly tours last summer, so we’d be a stop on that every Thursday. You get groups of tourists, and they come on in and they’ll do a cheese tasting, it’s really nice. After every food tour I’ve did last summer, I’d see them all the next day for a coffee or a glass of wine

Killian: We recently launched the LUNA Supper Club which has been a big hit with locals. Our cousin Harry who works with us and is responsible for driving the food scene here in Luna, and runs/executes the menu for each event. Each event involves 5 courses / sharing plates. The place is candlelit with a super intimate atmosphere – definitely something different for Killarney which I think is why locals have responded so well to it.

Emily: For 2024 – no major changes really, would like to host a lot more evening events like the Supper Club for starters. Other than that it’s business as usual but always trying to make small incremental improvements for our customers wherever we can.

Killian: It’s building a food scene in Killarney… there are amazing things happening here.

Emily: The producers are there, it’s really just all about getting the word out about it.

Find out more about Luna Coffee + Wine here.

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