Jolita Puksmiene and Baz Wiebenga. Photo: Mian Photography

Sushi-Mania hits Virginia

Virginia isn’t the first place that pops into your mind when you hear someone mention sushi but it's become a hub for the product since Sushi Mania was set up last year. Jolita Puksmiene and Baz Wiebenga opened their Sushi-Mani business in March of last year and it’s been onwards and upwards since. Originally only staffed by the co-owners, four part time staff are now employed.

Demand from markets and festivals around the country, as well as from businesses has meant a busy year for the pair.

“Market demand and business to business demand and business to corporate demand has been strong,” says Baz

The sushi is made using local produce and fresh Irish ingredients. That’s something Jolita says is important for them but also for their customers.

“I think the success is because we only work with local ingredients. People like to hear that. When we sell the products directly to customers we educate them on how to eat it. That helps as well. We have that personal touch.”

Sushi, it’s fair to say, is an unusual choice of business for Ireland, especially rural Ireland. But for Baz and Jolita it has paid off.

“There’s a myth that you can’t sell fish to a Cavan man,” laughs Baz. “We sell more in this part of the country than we do anywhere else. We go to Cavan, Virginia, Bailieborough, Ballyjamesduff, Oldcastle and others.”

While most of the sushi products are fish based, either cooked or uncooked, but others, including Clonakilty pudding, duck, chicken and beef options are also available. Special dietary requirements are also catered for. Currently based in the kitchen at the Virginia Show Centre, work is well underway on the business’s new premises on Main Street. Baz is excited about what the move will mean for them.

“It’s going to be a full production kitchen where people can come in and see where we work and we can explain what we’re doing. It’s the personal touch.”

Jolita is keen to stress that Sushi-Mania's new home will primarily be a kitchen. While customers will be able to buy sushi and other products at certain times, its main role will be a space for them to prepare food for supply to other businesses.

“The focus is mainly going to be on production. It’s a production kitchen to supply the other businesses, that’s the main idea. That’s why we say it’s going to have a small retail [space] because we’re thinking it might only be open for certain hours like lunch and then we’d close to keep producing and maybe open again in the evening.”

It’s hoped the kitchen will be ready for opening in September. Both Baz and Jolita want to note the support they have received from the local community in Virginia, Cavan County Council, businesses in the area and local councillors.