There was big Irish doings over at the Embassy Suite Hotel on Monday afternoon.
Ireland’s Trade, Enterprise and Employment Minister, Micheal Martin, made a special guest appearance at the ninth annual Ireland Show held on the top six floors of the Harmon Meadow Plaza hotel.
Minister Martin and his entourage hobnobbed with participants at the well-attended four-day trade show, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
Between the swanky hors d’oeuvres and open bar at an informal reception, as well as a dazzling array of Irish giftware, a grand time was had by all.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Irish gift industry to enjoy the historic good relationship between Ireland and America,” said Martin. “Hundreds of Irish stores benefit from the repeated success of the Ireland Show as we continue to pursue global trade options.”
Mayor Dennis Elwell and his entourage were also on hand to meet and greet the illustrious visitor. Elwell presented Minister Martin with a wee bit of giftware – a Mikasa crystal vase and two crystal candlesticks. “The [trade] show’s popularity is a great boon for Secaucus,” said Mayor Elwell. “I’ve been coming for five years now, and everyone is very friendly and really enjoys their stay.” The annual Ireland Show is in its ninth year and features luxurious Irish giftware from baby clothes to woolen knits, from breakfast goods to dog treats. There is Irish jewelry made of precious metals and stones of every sort; ceramics, key chains, kilts, dance shoes and plaques. Things Irish were also represented in photography, music and video format. There were even Irish-style urns for your loved one’s ashes.
Two hundred vendors
More than 200 vendors turned their rooms into convincing storefronts with products displayed with style and wit. There was plenty of glitter and color, and pleasant shopkeepers to warm the heart and excite the pocketbook. Owners of Irish-oriented stores from across America came to order goods from both Irish and American manufacturers.
A big banner reading “Cead Mile Failte” (meaning “100,000 welcomes to you” in Irish) was draped across a balcony. There was a pleasant blend of business and camaraderie as guests drank coffee and conversed at tables located at the corner of each floor.
“This is a very nice show and well represented – the only one to have vendors [of Irish goods] from both Ireland and America,” said Wyckoff resident Susan McGahey. “It’s convenient to get here, and everybody I need to see from Ireland is here.”
The original organizer of the show, Peter Collins, is from Mullingar, County West Meath. He said that at first, the show started at the Embassy with a few exhibitors. Each year, it grew in leaps and bounds.
Now, the Secaucus Ireland Show is the ‘to go’ place for many of Irish product shops across the U.S. Exhibitors come from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom.
“When we first started we used two floors at the hotel – now we use six,” said Collins.
Ohio resident Gerry Lynch said it was his fifth year coming to the Ireland Show. He agrees with many of the other retail buyers coming for Irish merchandise that the Embassy extravaganza is the best in America. Lunch’s store, Celtic Law Jewelry, specializes in “safety forces” (religious medals) and Celtic designs.
“This is the perfect setup – easy to get to from Newark airport, 20 minutes by mass transportation to New York. Enjoyable and no sweat,” said Lynch.
What’s for sale
Tony Hearty of Heartys Folk Cottage in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland said his room was the only stop where one-of-a-kind items could be brought. He featured antique Belleck Fine Parian China. Ireland’s premier pottery has been handcrafted by skilled artisans since 1857. Hand-painted shamrocks are his hallmark. “You can get the current porcelain upstairs, but we specialize in antique pieces,” said Hearty.
Hearty’s sister, Mary Byrne, crafts quilts reminiscent of designs from the Book of Kells. She said her work studio faces the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. The mountains’ earthy colors inspired the bold beauty of her quilts and pillows.
“We’ve been coming ever since the show started,” Byrne said. “Last night we went to the Weehawken Chart House. It has a lovely view of the river.”
Carole Potts is from McHenry, Illinois. She is one of the American manufacturers of Irish goods. She designs clothes, fabrics, dog dishes and children’s items. She had to get permission from the Ireland Board of Tourism to use the Irish lighthouse images on her T-shirts and other giftware.
Potts said she started the business after being challenged by her husband to do it. The 65-year-old had been a housewife all her life. After raising five children, she decided she needed a change.
“I never worked a day in my life before I started this six years ago,” she said. “It’s not [like] working – I have a great time. It really took off! I started designing a few things and now I do all kinds of gifts.”