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Discover Downtown Schenectady

St. Patrick’s Day lures many customers to Lennon's Irish Shop

Sunday, March 3, 2013
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Discover Downtown Schenectady


Maryann May, co-owner of Lennon’s Irish Shop on Jay Street, shows off  some Hanna Hats. May said the caps are extremely durable.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Maryann May, co-owner of Lennon’s Irish Shop on Jay Street, shows off some Hanna Hats. May said the caps are extremely durable.

“Discover Downtown Schenectady” is a monthly feature spotlighting the businesses and people making downtown unique.

The countdown continues at Lennon’s Irish Shop on Jay Street.

People shopping for sweaters, ties, jewelry, bangers and rashers will notice the sign near the cash register — today, there are only 14 days left until St. Patrick’s Day.

“That’s our second Christmas,” said Maryann May of Princetown, who owns the store with her husband, Dale. “Let’s face it. When St. Patrick’s Day comes up, everybody’s Irish.”

Everybody can be Irish inside the store. Lennon’s, a few steps off State Street, opened in June 2007. Original proprietor Tom Lawrence named the place after his mother, Anne Lennon Lawrence. The Mays — of course, they’re Irish — became partners in 2009 and took over ownership in 2010.

May hopes people can find accessories for St. Patrick’s Day, but said people shop year-round for graduation, wedding and baptism gifts. There are hundreds of items stocked in the narrow store with the hardwood floor and green-painted tin ceiling. Everything in the place is either imported from Ireland or made by Irish companies.

Green is always a fashion choice, and May carries an assortment of emerald-colored sweatshirts, T-shirts and hoodies.

Lately, people are buying clothing that pledge alliance to Irish breweries Guinness and Smithwick’s. And while neither beer nor whiskey is sold in Lennon’s, the store does have a freezer filled with provisions from Ireland. Bangers are pork sausage.

“They don’t seem to me as fatty,” May said. “It’s a smoother flavor.”

Rashers are bacon. “They’re like Canadian bacon,” May said.

Beef meat pies, breakfast teas, white pudding — pork and spices fried in a pan — and even Scottish favorite, haggis, also are in stock. The haggis, in cans, sold well during the Christmas season. “People put it in their stockings,” May said.

Surprises on hand

May also likes to keep surprises in her store. People might not expect 2-foot-tall stone Celtic crosses in gift stores. Chunks of dried Irish turf — peat — are sold in 3-pound pink bags for $18.99 and are used in the fireplace. “It doesn’t burn, it smolders,” May said. “It just has a wonderful aroma.”

Galway crystal vases, beer steins and champagne flutes are on some shelves. Right next to them are selections from Belleek, which has been making pottery in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, since the 1850s.

People who visit an Irish shop should expect Irish music, and the Mays keep pipes and other Celtic instruments on their sound system all day.

“I try to play local bands, that’s what I sell,” May said, “like Running the River — these guys live in Niskayuna — and Triskele. And the Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band.”

Other shoppers seek Irish wool caps, round on the tops with small bills in the front. May said hats, from Donegal manufacturer Hanna, are actually homemade. The factory provides fabric, she said, and workers make the caps at their homes.

“You can’t wear these out, they just wear like iron,” May said. “John Hanna, who owns the Hanna hat company, says they’re the only hats that won’t blow off your head.”

Some fans of the old country appreciate the sweets inside Lennon’s. The Mays maintain a small selection of candy bars popular in Ireland. Flake is one. Crunchie — milk chocolate with a honeycomb center — is another.

“When the singing group Celtic Woman was at Proctors, Chloë Agnew came in and kept buying the Crunchies,” May said. “When Celtic Woman was in Albany last year, her fan club came in and bought a box to give to her.”

 
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