By Kristi Kates
Everybodys got an Irish, Scottish, or Welsh connection, explains Ed
Karmann, owner of one of downtown Petoskeys newest stores, the County
Emmet Celtic Shop.
You know - people want to identify with a group, or a nationality,
Karmann continues, and the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh are all fiercely
loyal to their countries.
Loyal to their countries, and, on a lighter note, often nearly as loyal to
the products of those countries, as well, from clothing to candy bars.
That was part of the impetus for Karmann and his wife, Linda (and, of
course, The Boys - their two dogs, Scottish Deerhound Hamish and Irish
Wolfhound Saoirse) to begin their new Celtic venture.
FACES OF IRELAND
The doors to County Emmet Celtic Shop swung open on October 22, the result
of plenty of preparation plus longtime retail experience - and a bit o
Irish influence - on Karmanns part.
Ive been in retail for 30, 35 years, he says, and I have an Irish
background on my mothers side. My wife and I travel to Ireland fairly
often, both to visit and to find products for the shop.
When they do go to Ireland, he explains, they typically land in Dublin,
rent a car, visit some relatives, and then explore a different part of the
country each time they visit. Hes reluctant to name favorites, though, as
he says that Ireland has so many different faces.
Dublins a very cool city, Karmann enthuses, its got lots of history,
and lots of things to do. While up in the northwest, Gaelic is spoken, and
its a very remote and very beautiful part of the country. So its all
SWEATERS TO SODA POP
Part of the Karmanns travels, as mentioned earlier, include finding items
for their store.
Because were a new shop, were trying pretty much anything, Karmann
explains, if you own a Celtic shop, theres a trade association you can
join. So most of our merchandise is from trade shows, and from our trips
to Ireland. I was in Dublin for a trade show just a month ago.
The shop, which carries everything from DVDs and CDs, greeting cards,
books, art, and souvenirs to home décor, clothing, and jewelry, also
offers foodstuffs and even drinks for those familiar with Irish, Scottish,
and Welsh products.
We may have gone overboard in the food department, Karmann laughs, a
lot of the foods we carry might be recognized by those who have spent a
lot of time overseas.
Bewleys teas, Oatfield-brand candies, and the very popular bright-orange
soda known in Ireland as Irn-Bru (pronounced iron brew), are only a few
of their food and beverage offerings.
Karmann says that other great sellers include the Celtic jewelry and the
thick-knit Irish-made sweaters.
Novelty and rugby t-shirts have been selling more lately, too, as we get
closer to St. Patricks Day, he says.
With the current County Emmet Celtic Shop taking up about 1,100 square
feet, Karmann says they have no plans to expand the physical building any
time soon, but they do plan to continue expanding their product line.
We have a lot of merchandise arriving very soon from the last trade show
we went to in Ireland, he says.
But as much fun as that international shopping may be, Karmann says what
he enjoys most are the customers themselves.
What I still like best is just talking with the people and hearing all of
their interesting stories and Celtic connections, he says, and I like
seeing people get a kick out of certain products - some of them will walk
out of here with an entire handful of candy bars, saying, I havent seen
this candy in years, since I was last in Ireland - I cant believe you
carry it here! Its just fun.
County Emmet Celtic Shop is located at 221 East Lake Street in downtown
Petoskey, telephone 231-753-2027. They are open Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 am-6
pm, Sundays 11 am-4 pm, and are closed Mondays, and may also be found
online at www.countyemmet.com.