County Emmet Celtic Shop
Despite some challenges in recent years, mom ‘n’ pop Celtic retailers are making a good go of it. Recently we caught up with Ed Karmann of the Petosky, Michigan-based County Emmet Celtic Shop.
What are your own roots?
My Father’s grandparents were from Germany; Osnabruck in the north, and south of Munich. My Mother’s parents were from Ireland; Beglieve, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan and the Falls Road area of Belfast.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
We opened in October, 2010, as County Emmet Celtic Shop, as we are located in Emmet County, Michigan – named after Robert Emmet. In the spring of this year we expanded into the shop next door, which is called Molly’s Celtic Kitchen. Molly was my Grandmother from the Falls Road. In both shops, we sell merchandise from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as Celtic-themed items. If it is not from one of those places, or identified as being related somehow to those areas, we do not sell it.
What are your core products?
We carry an extensive line of wool items, men’s and women’s sweaters, hats and caps, scarves, socks, capes, vests, etc. This fall we are going to start carrying a line of men’s and women’s blazers. Various long and short sleeve rugby style shirts, novelty tee shirts, ball caps and Guinness labeled clothing. There is over 30 feet of mult- shelved jewelery cases. In Molly’s Celtic Kitchen we carry house-wares (Belleek, Galway, etc), wall decor and art, greeting cards and music CD’s. We also offer a good selection of prepackaged foods, and take-out coffees and teas. We also have a refrigerated case with Irn Bru and other Barr’s products. And we are trying out some Kerrygold products, to see how they do.
How do you differ from the competition?
I’ve only been to 5 other Celtic type shops, so I am not quite sure how to answer that – all unique in their own ways, just as we are. The take out beverages and prepackaged foods may not be the norm for most shops. Something else that is different; on Sunday’s we bring our own dogs in for people to see and interact with; Irish Wolfhounds, Finn and Beglieve, have become quite the attraction!
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
Celtic Shops, just like any other brick and mortar business, face competition from the internet like never before. If shop owners do not have access to what’s new and different from “The Celtic Isles”, what makes us unique in the retail marketplace, will be gone, as will we.
What can be done to overcome the current challenges in that marketplace?
We sell products from, and in some ways represent, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Support from Governmental agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, and their Scottish and Welsh counterparts in terms of promoting, and helping our businesses, would certainly be appreciated.
What are your future plans for the business?
Well, we are done expanding building wise! My focus now is to find unique and quality Celtic products we can sell. As such, we will be attending Enterprise Ireland’s show in Dublin in January 2016.
How else are you involved with the Celtic community there?
I am Chairman of the Robert Emmet Society. Founded in 1990, the original aim of the Society was to bring a 5th statue of Emmet to Emmet County, Michigan. Currently, there are 4 statues of Emmet designed by Irishman Jerome Connor. All are from the same mold, and they located in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Emmetsburg Iowa, Washington DC, and Dublin Ireland respectively. For various reasons, by 1992, that mission had failed, and the Society changed their focus. Since then, we have offered Scholarships for Students of Northwest Central Michigan College. Each year, participating students write an essay on the life of Robert Emmet, and how his ideals and values pertain to life today. The winning essay receives a scholarship for a semester at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland. RES takes care of the students’ round trip airfare, a semester of tuition, lodging, health insurance, and immigration fees. In addition, if the student elects to stay the entire school year, their tuition is taken care of. Currently our 17th student is in Galway, having the experience of a lifetime. We also offer a yearly Music Scholarship, one each for Junior and High School students in the area. And, we also are back to the statue, seeking funding for a 5th copy of the Connor-Robert Emmet Statue. I am also one of several US representatives for the Captain Kelly Justice Campaign. An internet based effort – www.captainkelly.org – has been created to clear the name of Irish Army Captain James Kelly.