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Published: Saturday, 3/17/2001

Irish help bring green into shops

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Blooming Ideas Floral & Gift Shoppe in Toledo is among the local merchants that offer St. Patrick's Day items year-round. The Blooming Ideas Floral & Gift Shoppe in Toledo is among the local merchants that offer St. Patrick's Day items year-round.
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'Tis the shops of the Germans and Poles that make a bit o' green from the Irish and their many admirers on St. Patrick's Day.

But there's little Irish heritage among Toledo-area shop owners who say St. Patrick's Day is one of their biggest sales holidays.

At the Irish Cottage Tea Room on West Sylvania Avenue, where St. Patrick's Day sales are second only to Christmas, owners John and Annabelle Buczkowski are Polish.

So is Paula Letke, whose Blooming Ideas Floral & Gift Shoppe on West Laskey Road makes flower arrangements using potatoes and cabbages on St. Patrick's Day, its fifth largest sales holiday.

Joanne Hagan owns The Window Seat in Sylvania's Starlite Plaza where St. Patrick's Day is the second-most lucrative holiday. She's German and English. However, her husband is Irish and she can trace her genealogy back to one Irish ancestor in 1758.

The shop owners all devote far more space to Irish gifts than to merchandise from their own heritage.

“There is not a Polish day as there is an Irish day,” said Mrs. Letke. She started selling Irish merchandise when she and her husband operated Stoll's Pharmacy in East Toledo and had many Irish customers.

At the flower shop she operates with her daughter Lisa Eisinger, St. Patrick's Day ranks behind Christmas, Mother's Day, Easter, and Valentine's Day. But gifts from the corner she devotes to Irish things are popular year-round. Among their big sellers are Irish gift baskets, statuettes, wall hangings, and afghans.

“It's not just green carnations anymore,” Mrs. Letke said.

The Window Seat, which has operated 14 years, started nine years ago with a corner for Irish things. Dubbed Hagan's Irish Corner, the Irish merchandise area has expanded into three rooms, covering one-eighth of the store's 2,400 square feet.

However, 25 percent of sales throughout the year are from the Irish area which offers jewelry, sweaters, music, books, videos, sweatshirts, and glassware, Mrs. Hagan said.

The few English teapots and German items in her shop are there by chance. She said she doesn't know of another ethnic group that is as devoted to buying items linked to its ancestral homeland as the Irish.

On buying trips, she seldom sees any other ethnic sections in mainstream showrooms. Perhaps, she said, it's linked to the pride the Irish take in organizing huge parades on St. Patrick's Day.

Nevertheless, St. Patrick's Day related sales remain a niche market and are not large enough to be tracked by the National Retail Federation.



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