The Happy Camper: A Sweet Success Story

This article appeared in the 2023 edition of The Creeslough View Magazine

By Marie Duffy

Everyone in Creeslough, and much further afield knows about the pancakes from the Happy Camper in the Wild Atlantic Camp in Creeslough. Owner, Jane is a seasoned pancake expert with over 35 years of experience in making and selling delicious pancakes. She embarked on her pancake adventure when her eldest child was just a toddler, and her passion for pancakes has never waned since.

Around 12 years ago, Jane and her sister Maria decided to team up and create something special. This idea was born after Jane returned home from living in Dublin for three decades. It was Maria’s suggestion to make asnd sell their famous pancakes that set the wheels in motion.

They began their culinary journey with a humble food truck called “Happy Camper.” Little did they know that this endeavour would eventually become a beloved local s. 0The initial inspiration for the food truck came from a friend who was selling a caravan, which became their first mobile kitchen.

“Maria knew a man who was selling an old caravan. Mum gave us the lend of the 600 pounds to go and buy it. My brother renovated it. We went out to the middle of nowhere in Glenveagh. At the time, I had a cleaning thing going and she was singing. The plan was that when she was singing, I was going to do it. I don’t know what we thought we were doing but it became popular! I remember the guards stopping one day. They thought we had set up camp along the road and were living there. I don’t think they could believe we were making pancakes and coffee.”

The Happy Camper food truck quickly gained popularity, attracting both locals and tourists with its mouthwatering pancakes. Jane and Maria’s business steadily grew over the years, driven by word-of-mouth recommendations and loyal repeat customers.

From the food truck, they moved into a diner before finally settling in their current location in Creeslough. Today, Happy Camper employs over half a dozen dedicated individuals who share Jane’s passion for making delicious pancakes. Everything is prepared fresh in-house using locally sourced ingredients, ensuring that every pancake is made with love and care. Among the many topping combinations on the menu, anything featuring Nutella is a guaranteed fan favourite!

While the business has experienced its share of challenges, such as the seasonal nature of their trade, Brexit, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Jane and her team have persevered. Each year, they see more steady and consistent growth. Challenges like Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic initially worried Jane, but her community has been incredibly supportive. Plus, their affordable prices make it possible for entire families to enjoy a delicious treat.

Jane shares, “People want to support local. They want to support the local businessperson as opposed to the company.” Their customers’ unwavering support, combined with the affordable meal prices on offer that cater to families, has been instrumental in overcoming these hurdles.

Jane has four daughters, each living in different parts of the world – Dubai, Leeds, and Bray. 

While her children are far away, she’s busy serving up pancakes and making her customers feel at home. Jane is committed to her craft and plans to stick with a pancake-only menu, as she knows people love what she does.

Jane doesn’t shy away from hard work. She recalls cooking for 89 kids from two schools in just an hour, thanks to her trusty grill that can handle 20 pancakes at a time. During the summer, they go through five boxes of eggs and three 25kg bags of pancake mix every week.

When asked if she has any regrets, Jane responds with a resounding “No!” She used to do personal shopping for ten years, spending other people’s money on their fancy wardrobes. But now, she’s found her true calling and couldn’t be happier. She loves running her pancake business, where she’s not just serving food but also offering a listening ear and a friendly chat to anyone who needs it. People come from near and far to savour her pancakes, and she feels blessed by their loyalty. She cherishes the connections she’s made through her business, even if it’s just one person each day. “You know there’s always going to be somebody, somebody who needs a chat, somebody who needs an ear to bend. Somebody who wants to rant about something.”

Jane’s deep connection with her community is evident in her dedication to supporting local businesses and her passion for providing affordable treats to families. She knows how expensive it can be to take children out for a treat. “These days most families can’t afford a treat. But if they can, and this is the place they can afford, then I’m delighted.”

As for the future, Jane has no plans to leave her beloved pancake business behind. She recognises that people travel from all over to try her pancakes and is extremely grateful. Her dedication to her craft and her customers ensures that Happy Camper’s pancakes will continue to bring joy to all who visit for years to come. Even though she is not a Creeslough woman, she feels part of the Creeslough community. “For somebody who has no real connections to the place, you feel connected. You know, there’s not many places you’ll get that.”


This article appeared in the 2023 edition of The Creeslough View Magazine