When Pat Griffiths and her parents, Steve and Audrey, opened the Shamrock Shanty in West Ocean City about 15 years ago, the family-oriented business sold merchandise for people of all ethnic backgrounds.
But gradually, that changed. Because of Audrey Griffiths’ Irish background, Celtic crosses and claddaugh rings, among other Irish imports, slowly became the backbone of the business. By the time the Griffithses moved to their location near 142nd Street in Ocean City about three years ago, they sold nothing but Irish merchandise, from jewelry to novelty items.
Even the mascot of the store, a 3-year-old Border collie who was born at about the same time the Griffithes moved locations, is named “Irish” and roams the store with a shamrock-laden bandana wrapped around his neck.
“We realized that there wasn’t a lot around for the Irish,” Pat Griffiths said. “So we expanded our business and the Irish took over. We sell everything from jewelry to clothing to gift items.”
Pat Griffiths said that about 80 percent of the store’s merchandise is imported directly from Ireland. The Shanty imports much of its porcelain and crystal decorations, as well as rosaries, from overseas.
“It’s hard to find religious things, so we try to sell them,” Pat Griffiths said, pointing out some of the rosaries and the Celtic crosses in one of the store’s five glass jewelry cases.
Most of the jewelry in the cases is also directly imported from Dublin, Ireland, the Griffithes said. All jewelry that leaves Ireland, Steve Griffiths added, has to be inspected for quality and is marked by the jeweler and the date it is made. Indeed, nothing leaves the country before going through the assay office in Dublin, where Irish government officials make sure it meets the country’s standards.
“If it doesn’t come to their standard, it gets broken and sent back,” Steve Griffiths said, emphasizing that all of the Irish jewelry in the store is of high quality.
But as popular as the jewelry is, the Griffithses added, the novelty items are the most popular at this time of the year. As St. Patrick’s Day steadily approached, the family kept the store open all of this week and customers poured in to buy top hats, sequin-studded vests and items from the line of Guinness clothing.
Pat Griffiths said that the store sells everything needed to turn the “non-Irish into Irish for St. Patrick’s Day.” She said they will remain open through the weekend but will shut down through next week, staying open only on weekends until the first of May.
Then, the Griffithses, who say they see a good amount of business in the still relatively new location, will remain open seven days a week throughout the summer.
“We’re well supported by the community,” Pat Griffiths said. “We’re even getting a lot of people from Delaware,” she said, adding that the town can get pretty busy in the summer and on weekends in the off-season.
But despite the fact that the store gets rather hectic, the Shanty has retained its family-oriented atmosphere. No one outside the Griffiths family has been hired because the three own and operate the store in which they take pride. Pat Griffiths will be the first to tell anyone that the Shamrock Shanty is an enticing place but it’s not unique.
“You don’t see German and Polish stores,” Pat said. “But you see Irish stores. There’s a lot of pride.”
To reach Shamrock Shanty, call (410) 250-4444.