The Celtic Lair

storyYou don’t have to be Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Breton or Galician to be passionate about Celtic culture. Just ask Gabrielle Robles, owner and operator of The Celtic Lair in Schenctady, New York.

What are your own roots?
I am of Puerto Rican, Spaniard and French descent.

What inspired you to start the business? 
My love for the Celtic culture took me to Scotland/England in 2000. A trip I have been dreaming of since the age of 14.  I toured Edinburgh, Dunblane Perth, visiting museums and shops, but what impressed me the most were the tea rooms.  Each one I visited has its own unique atmosphere, the attention to even the simplest décor stuck with me.  The teas were wonderful and this is where I was first introduced to clotted cream, gooseberry jam.  I loved how the village interacted with one another, more so than here in America’s coffee houses.  I felt relaxed and cozy.  Complete strangers welcomed me, which enhanced my experience.  I relished in their banter with the most melodic accent with tales of their youth.  My time there was nothing less than amazing.  So upon my return home to NY it hit me, I want to open a business that somehow relates to the majestic feeling of the Celtic culture while keeping true to its timeless traditions.  Please do not get me wrong, I am quite proud of my own culture of which I am well versed BUT…it’s a feeling that has drawn me in on another level, if you will, that I cannot put into words, only those who have felt the cosmic pull of the Celtic culture know what I am describing.  I understand this sounds very strange but how else would a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx be totally immersed in a culture completely foreign to her?  Exactly!  Something about it captured a part of me unknown and I researched everything I could about tea and its Celtic origins.  Over the years I have acquired quite a collection on Celtic culture and its history. I was thinking of opening a gift shop but there are many wonderful Irish/Celtic shops everywhere you look but one thing I did not see a lot of were tea rooms/businesses.  There were some in larger cities but none where I lived or the surrounding areas.  Tea has gotten lots of attention on its health benefits along with palette pleasing varieties.  That was it!  A home Tea catering business!  Overhead-minimal, supplies-affordable, new business venture-PRICELESS!  I can do this!  Hence the “The Celtic Lair” was born.  As I was thinking about the name I wanted to parlay a message of relaxation and socialization, a place to rest, which is the meaning of the word “Lair”.  The rest is history.

What are the challenges involved?
There are so many challenges that it can be frustrating but the drive in me is relentless so I had to find ways around these challenges to make my dream a reality. Money is #1 and the most important challenge but once conquered the rest fell into place. Marketing a tea product to a coffee society was another challenge but as I introduced my teas with a Celtic flair it opened up a whole new world for my customers. There are challenges with all businesses but to persevere one must do so with love and determination. To me that is the key for success!

What are the rewards?
Bringing a bit of Celtic charm to my clients events and gatherings is a great reward in itself, and secondly, working a business I created from the ground up.

What are your core products and services?
We are a tea caterer, offering teas exclusively from the UK, tea cakes, scones, clotted cream, biscuits, muffins, cookies, mousse and finger sandwiches. We bring the full tea décor for your party or event with all of the makings that are chosen ahead of time.  We will also present if our services are required or we set up and leave you and your guests to enjoy the atmosphere we have provided.

How do you differ from the competition?
We offer top notch professional services and products with a personal touch.  Every item is hand-picked personally by me exclusively from the UK. Most of our teas are organic and all of our baked goods are made the night before or the day of to ensure complete freshness, since I buy our produce and fruit from local farmers.  I believe my attention to Celtic traditions set us apart from other tea businesses.

What are your future plans for the business?
I plan on exhibiting more in the Northeast and Canada, building a reputation for myself and eventually open a Celtic Tea Room in the Capital Region, with a concentration in Saratoga Springs, NY.  My long term goal is to create a cultural work exchange program between The Celtic Lair and students studying hospitality from the UK, come abroad for a summer/semester and see what it’s like to live and work in America.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
I believe the Celtic Marketplace is making a comeback, especially here in the states.  I’m seeing more interest among non-Celtic people such as myself looking for cultural items such as literature, history, food products, jewelry, clothing, even tattoos. The symbolism of the Celts resonates with a lot of people who feel a connection and crave the bravado of yesteryear.  The increases in marketed goods have gone up in the last few years due to the film/cable industry using the historical genre of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales to produce great programming in America, hence the interest in Celtic products, the Highland Games and festivals.

Is enough being done, generally, to preserve and promote Celtic culture?
As someone outside the mainstream of the Celtic culture I think the Celtic people are doing more now than in the past not only to preserve but to educate the world about who they are and share their amazing history and culture. With today’s technology going global is but a push of a button.   We are connecting on levels never before achieved and this has the world delving into areas of cultures unknown to us.

What can we be doing better?
I sincerely believe that networking with organizations, groups and businesses can bring more of the Celtic culture to the forefront as well as coming together as a community.  The voice of one can start the change but the voice of many can change the world.