Celebrating 10 years in business and inspired by its owner's strong Irish roots, Celtic Aer in Westchester County, has perfect Irish gifts, from tweeds and jewelry to baby products.
Across the country, local Irish and Celtic shops represent the heartbeat of Irish culture in their communities, a place for Irish Americans to connect with their roots and for those in the larger community to learn more about everything Ireland has to offer. During this unprecedented time, IrishCentral is shining a light on local Irish stores and the dedicated shop owners who pour their hearts and souls into providing the best possible experiences for their customers.
Celtic Aer gift shop is owned and run by Ashley Rooney in a house that's well over 100 years old, in Shrub Oak, New York, a town that's remained unchanged for almost that long. The store stocks everything Irish you could possibly need from Aran sweaters to brown bread mix and sausages. Ashley told IrishCentral how Celtic Aer started out.
"My father started a little garden center in 1992 on a busy corner in Yorktown, New York. He always had some kind of sign, but everyone always referred to it as the 'Irish guy on the corner', as he's from County Fermanagh. So when I jumped around in different corporate jobs and was unhappy, I decided to try putting in a little shop on his corner, actually in a large shed he barely operated out of," Ashley explained.
"It grew over the years, as more customers came from further away to find the perfect Irish or Celtic gift. I always listened to what customers wanted, and I would explore and buy based on what people wished for. Now here we are celebrating 10 years in business in a new, larger location one mile away."
This Irish girl's strong roots have inspired her store but it seems that retail is also in the Rooney family's blood!
"My father, Patrick Rooney, was born and raised in County Fermanagh on a farm not far from Enniskillen. His family owned Rooney's Shop, which sold petrol, general grocery, and animal feed items," Ashley said.
"He moved to New York in the 70s and worked in the hustle and bustle of mid-town Manhattan before opening his business in our town. He’s now in his 28th year in business as the owner of Celtic Farms and Nursery.
"Because he was one of nine siblings, and the only one to end up in the States, we have a large family of aunts, uncles, and cousins to visit in Ireland."
Of course, family and her store, Celtic Aer, means that Ashley has a great excuse to travel to Ireland but still she'd like to visit more.
"With young kids, not as often as I'd like! About five times in the last 15 years but I'm hoping to travel there at least every other year, or as often as a busy family allows, going forward."
While she might not get to visit Ireland as much as she'd like, at home in Yorktown, Ashley's surrounded by a strong Irish community.
"We have a great mix of Irish, Scottish, British and Welsh emigrants as well as tons of proud Irish-Americans," Ashley said.
And of course, they're happy to have an Irish gift store in town. Among Celtic Aer's most popular products is their selection of jewelry, from traditional to modern Celtic designs.
"Our baby and kids section is always growing and we have beautiful woolens
for the whole family. Tweed caps, pottery, gifts for the home, and the food section is always a hit," she added.
While Ashley picks up a lot of her stock at trade shows in the United States and Ireland and from visiting sales reps and online, Ashley's favorite was to find new Irish gifts is to shop in Ireland.
Ashley said, "Traveling to Ireland to shop is my favorite, there's nothing like being immersed in the culture and scenery to really get a connection with the products."
It's no surprise that Christmastime is Celtic Aer's busiest time with St. Patrick's Day coming in second place, the biggest celebration of the year.
"Since we are located just north of New York City, a lot of our customers march in or attend the St. Patrick's Day parade. In addition, there are several parades each weekend in March in different towns around us that draw big crowds!" Ashley explained.
Celtic Aer just recently moved to their new location in Shrub Oak, so the COVID-19 pandemic couldn't have come at a worse time, as the virus saw many St. Patrick's Day parade's called off.
"After signing a lease early this year, I already had my work cut out for me. Investing in the build-out of a new storefront and all the challenges a move entails, I was hoping for a busy and prosperous March and April," Ashley told IrishCentral.
"But instead, the pandemic and 'shelter in place' closed my business for almost three months. I had my heart set on a celebratory grand opening party, but instead will be limiting the number of customers in my shop, enforcing masks and sanitizer."
In these strange times, it's important to support small local businesses. You can shop online at CelticAer.com. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You can contact Ashley via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the store at 1137 E Main St, Shrub Oak, NY 10588.