The charmingly named Lily’s & Lolly’s Cafe tucked away in the elegant Yeat’s Memorial Building in the heart of Sligo Town is run by Nuala Healy. Interestingly, she first named the cafe “Lily’s” after her late mother but renamed it when she discovered the names of W.B. Yeat’s two sisters.
Nuala is one of those people who squash more than is humanly possible into every 24 hour day. Brought up on a farm near Ransboro, third child in a family of six, she learned early on to just get things done. Her father was a dairy farmer and they also grew all their own vegetables, teaching her early on to appreciate both quality food and local provenance.
She began working part time in Beezie’s Restaurant in Sligo as a teenager and the hospitality industry clearly suited her. She loved the interaction with people and the challenges involved. On leaving school she went into the Towers Hotel on a trainee management scheme, involving day release to college and the wonderful experience of six months in each of the hotel departments. Four years on, she moved to Ballybofey in Co. Donegal to begin work in Jackson’s Hotel. At the same time she began working with a local disco, eventually leasing it and turning it into the first teenage disco in the area. It ran successfully for four years until about 2008.
Nuala found she had a real ability to connect with teenagers and this led to a different development in her life. Her interest in people, their motivations and their challenges prompted her to begin a part time course in Social Studies and she followed this with a full time honours degree. The circumstances which lead teenagers to becoming young offenders and ending up in prison fascinated Nuala. She began working in residential units such as Oberstown and Ballydowd, endeavouring to do what she could to make a difference in these young lives. She feels very strongly about the lack of opportunities available to many young people and the negative results ensuing.
Remarkably, it was during this ridiculously busy period in her life that she took the lease on Lily’s and Lolly’s. The country was emerging from a recession, but undeterred, she opened the doors seven years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She credits the great team of people working with her for the almost impossible achievement of keeping all those balls in the air simultaneously.
Nuala has invested a lot in the cafe since opening, revamping the kitchen and doing up the charming courtyard. She continues to ‘give back’ to society too, taking in teenagers on work experience and even more significantly, giving long term foster care to two little girls.
She is passionately committed to Sligo and loves the positive changes she sees in the town like the family orientated festivals which draw people together. That same positive energy is abundant in Nuala herself – the glass is without exception always half full! www.sligofoodtrail.ie #SligoFoodTrail