March ushers in the first signs of spring and thoughts of warmer days ahead. It also means we get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a religious and cultural holiday celebrating the patron saint of Ireland.
We thought we would check in with two very different Irish businesses in Maryland to see how this fun holiday impacts their bottom line this month.
Margaret Barry McLemore owns and operates Irish Traditions, with stores in downtown Annapolis and Easton. She sells all Irish goods, including jewelry, gift items, hand-knit sweaters, crystal and much, much more.
We asked her why she thought her store would work on the Eastern Shore.
“I grew up in an Irish immigrant community and know that there is strong affinity for Irish culture and products among Irish Americans. While the Eastern Shore does not have as many native Irish or first generation Irish Americans as larger metropolitan areas, more than 20% of the population claims Irish heritage to some degree,” she said. “We chose to return to Maryland, after job transfers had taken us to Colorado and New Jersey, and settled on the Eastern Shore. Then we started looking for a specific location for the shop. We opened in Easton in 2005, then expanded to Annapolis in 2010.
She said her customer base is evenly split between people of Irish and Scottish heritage who seek out her shop as a destination, local customers who come back because of the quality of the products without regard to the fact they are made in Ireland, and finally tourists who stop in while exploring the town.
“We market to our Irish & Scottish affinity customers through organizations like the Irish Society of Delmarva and the St Andrew’s Society of the Eastern Shore and the events they sponsor. We also join with other businesses in Annapolis and Easton to market to our local customers,” she said.
“We do see an increase in business during March as the holiday serves to remind people that we are here,” she said. “Our food sales, in particular, are higher as customers who will be entertaining for the holiday come in to pick up their favorite Irish groceries.”
Does she have any advice for anyone thinking of starting a business based on their unique family heritage and culture?
“Get as much experience as you can in all aspects of your chosen business before you start and have a strong business plan. There are a number of sources for free assistance in planning to start a business.” (See MCE’s course schedule here!)
And if you’ve ever dreamed of traveling to Ireland, McLemore can help with that too. Check out her website for tours of the Emerald Isle.
“My trade group – the North American Celtic Trade Association – was approached by CIE Tours International, the premier provider of escorted tours in Ireland, to offer their services through retail shops. It provided an opportunity to place their product in the hands of experts on Ireland throughout North America. In addition to offering their scheduled tours, I began to develop custom itineraries in response to my customers’ interests each year. This year, I’ve worked with the Historical Society of Talbot County to design a trip that focuses on Ireland’s culture and customs in agricultural and maritime industries. We’re also including a visit to Malahide Castle, home of Lady Grace Talbot, for whom the county was named. I usually accompany the groups, but not always. I’m fortunate to have an excellent staff in both shops, who handle the business when I am away for my tours or trade shows,” she said.
To learn more about Irish Traditions, stop by her store or check out their website www.irishtraditionsonline.com.
Now if a Guinness beer is what you crave on St. Patrick’s Day then Shenanigan’s Irish Pub and Grille, located on the Boardwalk and 4th Street in Ocean City is where you’ll want to be.
“St. Patrick’s Day is not like any other here,” said Greg Shockley, owner of Shenanigan’s. “It’s a party all day long!”
Greg has owned the pub since 1988 and he has always been dedicated to Irish traditions and customs. “I am not Irish, but I become more Irish every day,” he said.
As soon as you walk into Shenanigan’s, you know you’ve stepped into an Irish pub. Shenanigan’s is the only pub on the Shore that has Irish music and bands playing Irish songs all day long. On March 17th, the Chesapeake Caledonian Pipe Band and Ocean City pipe Band will perform only to add to the holiday spirit during this celebration of Irish traditions.
Every day is St. Patrick’s Day at Shenanigan’s, but on March 17th Greg sets up additional bars to accommodate all the patrons. On any given summer day, Shenanigan’s goes through about three kegs of Guinness. But On St. Patrick’s Day, about 30 kegs of Guinness will be sold!
There are also no waitresses taking your order, but a special food menu is available from one of 10 bartenders. Food is served on paper plates and everybody shouts “Slaintè!” (pronounced SLAN-cha) in a toast to your “health”.
With the annual parade in Ocean City and the holiday falling on the same day, the Shenanigan’s crew will open their doors on Friday to accommodate those who decide to start the celebration early. You can find anything you need to celebrate in this place, from Guinness and famous Irish foods, to T-shirts and other merchandise.
On Saturday, Shenanigan’s will start getting crowded as soon as the parade is over and will continue to stay busy until 2 am the next morning. The annual parade and festival celebrates the “wearin o’ the green,” an Ocean City tradition with entrants including marching bands, floats, law enforcement groups and more. The parade starts at noon on Saturday and will go from 61st Street south on Coastal Highway to 45th Street.
To learn more about Shenanigan’s Irish Pub and Grille, visit their website http://ocshenanigans.com and make sure to stop by to check it out when you are on the Boardwalk on St. Patrick’s Day weekend!