The Celtic Shop of Dunedin

lynntbtmar12-729x1024There are hundreds of business owners at the Celtic Marketplace Trade Show in Lombard, Il this weekend, including Lynn K. Thorne who owns and operates the Celtic Shop of Dunedin in Florida. Recently we spoke her about the challenges and rewards of doing what she does.

What are your own roots?
I am Scottish & Irish – part of the MacKay clan.  I am also a dual citizen – US & UK – I lived in the UK for 13 years.

What inspired you to start with the business?
I have a Masters degree in Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene. I have had many work lives – waitress; lab tech/phlebotomist; dental hygienist; junior college instructor; computer programmer/database designer; economic analyst; business analyst; process/change manager and finally owned my own business consulting company.  Even though I liked my consulting work, my dream was to own a retail shop and maybe it was time to move back to the States from the UK and realize this dream. I looked at quite a few different kinds of businesses and found the town of Dunedin, Florida on the web.  It looked like such a great town that I hopped on a plane in London and visited Dunedin.  I knew the minute I drove down Main Street that this was the place for me.  I visited all the shops; told them I was going to move there, open a business and asked what type of business did they think the town needed.  The next day, the owner of the Celtic Shop of Dunedin called me and asked if I was interested in buying the shop!!  It was meant to be!  I have always had a lot of interest in the Celtic culture (being both Irish and Scottish) & spent a lot of time in Ireland & Scotland when living in the UK.

Are these all the same reasons that you keep doing what you do?
I keep doing what I do because it is so much fun!  Every day is a joy.  I love working with people & love doing analytical work so having the shop means I have the best of both worlds. Every day I get a delivery is like Christmas.  Meeting and getting to know my over 100 vendors and becoming friends with a lot of them is also a great part of the business.

What are the challenges of your profession?
The hardest part of the business for me is finding good, trustworthy help that I can depend on.  No one will treat your shop as you do and it’s hard for me to let go and not hover.  But, I am open 7 days a week and can not run the shop without some help.  I am fortunate that I have a few friends (1 in particular) who are life savers.  Also, I think another challenge is making myself take some time off.  Even when my friends are in the shop, I want to come in and check on things.  My one good friend kicks me out on occasion!

What are the rewards?
Pride in what I’ve accomplished; importance in the community; hearing peoples’ interesting stories; satisfaction of knowing that my shop is a success; pretty much every day is just fun! I celebrate my anniversary every year with champagne, cake and a piper.  I am living my dream.

Who is your typical client?
I seem to have a wide range of customers – tourists & locals and a very wide age range.  One thing I’ve noticed is that men like to shop here.  I have a large number of male customers compared to some of my fellow merchants.

What are your core products?
I have a huge variety of products – jewelry, apparel, tartans, Highland wear, bridal, baby, home décor, books, cds, cards & food.  If I had to pick my core though, I would say it is jewelry.

What distinguishes you from you competition?
I would have to say customer service & the wide variety of my products.  Customer service is key!  I greet every person that comes in with a smile on my face and am genuinely interested in them as a person. I go out of my way to help them – I try to go the extra mile.

What are your future plans for the business?
I am trying to grow the business every year and so far have been successful in doing that. I’m constantly looking for new things and updating the look & feel of my shop – keeping what’s working and getting rid of what’s not

How has the Celtic marketplace evolved in recent years?
I would say there’s more and more interest in Celtic heritage.  I’ve seen an increasing amount of customers who have recently started being interested in their heritage.  These people hunt out Celtic shops and increasingly I’ve noticed that my shop is a destination shop for many people.

How long have you been involved with NACTA?
I’ve been a member of NACTA since I bought the shop in April 2009. I like everything about NACTA – the officers, members, the support, the publications, etc.  I like how everyone is willing to help each other out.  It’s an organization that you can go to for support and get questions answered – especially for someone like me that came into the retail business with no experience.  The NACTA publications and shopping bags are good sellers in my shop.

Why is Lombard an important event for you?

Of all the shows I attend, I prefer Lombard.  It’s a friendly, warm show where you have time to talk to other shop keepers and discuss business. The timing of Lombard is good for me because I am coming into my season here in Florida.  It’s important for me to see new products in person as opposed to seeing a picture of them.  I also like visiting with the vendors, many who have become friends over the 4 years I’ve owned the shop.

Are we doing enough to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
I may have a biased view on this question as Dunedin is a very Celtic town. I have noticed that young people are interested more than ever in their Celtic heritage. We have the Highland Games, Military Tattoo & Celtic Festival every year. The middle & high schools have very large pipe & drum bands as does the city. The non profit group New World Celts (of which I’m a member) was founded here. It is a social organization that raises money for scholarships for piping students. So, here in Dunedin, we significantly promote Celtic culture.

What can we be doing better?
I’m not sure I can think of anything.  Maybe advertise more  – getting the word out about Celtic culture.  But, saying that, I do a significant amount of advertising.  Sorry, I can’t really think of anything else.