Greenhills Irish Bakery in Dorchester’s Adams Village is marking a quarter-century in business this year by donating $1,000 per month to local charities. They started with a hometown favorite: The Martin Richard Foundation, named in memory of the eight-year-old Dorchester boy who was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon attack.
Greenhills’ owners Dermot and Cindy Quinn presented a check on Feb. 25 to Bill and Denise Richard and members of the foundation’s Youth Board of Directors, including Martin’s siblings, Henry and Jane. The board is now working on a project to make Easter baskets for homeless kids in the neighborhood.
The Quinns opened their Dorchester store in 1993, but their business began in 1990 when Dermot started making brown breads in his South Boston apartment using his grandmother’s secret recipe from County Offaly.
Cindy, his Massachusetts-born girlfriend, was impressed. “I had never had anything like it,” said Cindy, who met Dermot at a downtown Boston pub. “Then I tried making it and it came out a little better and that got under his skin,” she laughed. “’How could this Yankee make better brown bread that I can,’ he asked.’ ”
Dermot started selling his signature breads to a South Boston butcher a half-dozen at a time in 1990. He realized he had a truly viable product when he unloaded hundreds of breads — at $10 per loaf—during an Irish festival in the Catskills in ‘91.
They rented a kitchen in Southie for a while and built up a book of more than 40 Boston-area stores and restaurants that bought breads weekly— including their current neighbor, Gerard’s Adams Corner.
The couple opened their own Adams Corner store in July 1993— in a space next to the Eire Pub. The pub’s owner, Tom Stenson, gave them a sweetheart deal. “Tom was the man who gave us a break,” recalled Dermot. “He gave me the first six months for an unbelievable discount, almost for nothing.” (They later moved across Adams Street adjacent to Gerard’s business.)
In August 1993, the couple took a two-week hiatus to get married and enjoy a honeymoon. Today, they have four children, some of whom have worked part-time at the business, including their daughter Aoife, who is now making cupcakes of her own in California. Their son Jack, a student at BC High, has plans to make the business a franchise someday.
“So it snowballed into a business from one bread,” explains Dermot. “When we started, we put our head down and kept working. We still haven’t lifted up our head. It’s just been the foot to the pedal ever since.”
These days, Greenhills is known as a full-service café, featuring an array of Irish bread and scones, cookies, cakes and pastries, sausage rolls, beef stew and a full boiled dinner every Thursday (and every day during the week of St. Patrick’s feast.) The couple’s brand is known all over the Irish diaspora and beyond. But they are particularly grateful to the neighborhood crowd that turns up as early as 5 a.m. every day for coffee, tea, and breakfast.
“The neighborhood has been so generous to us down through the years and one hand washes the other,” said Dermot. “We like to give back to the neighborhood what they have given us. It’s a thank you to our patrons, because it’s not easy to stay in business for 25 years. It’s an appreciation to the neighborhood.”
Greenhills Irish Bakery is located at 780 Adams St. in Dorchester.