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Can't get to the Emerald Isle for St. Patrick's Day? Go green close to home

March 1, 2010

Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, they say. I, on the other hand, get to be a little bit Irish every day.

So does Clodagh Mc Guinness - although "a bit" is a bit of an understatement since she's 100 percent Irish.

Mc Guinness came to the United States 10 years ago to join her parents, who own an Irish gift shop and Mc Guinness Irish Pub in Appleton. Her father originally moved to the U.S. as the result of a job transfer. The Irish company he worked for owned a dairy in Fond du Lac. When the dairy shut down, the family decided to stay.

She's picked up the family line of work, and for the past six years Clodagh Mc Guinness has been the proprietor of Mystic Ireland, 13425 Watertown Plank Road. It's a store that Mc Guinness calls the only true Irish shop remaining in the Milwaukee area.

"I try to go into the more authentic, unique Irish stuff," she said. "I want to have the widest range. … It's a niche of a market."

Mc Guinness says people can't get over the huge inventory in the little shop. There's everything from T-shirts and Guinness glasses to Celtic jewelry and Irish tea.

Love of Irish goes year-round

On Tuesday, Mystic Ireland set up a kiosk at Brookfield Square. It will be there the next three weeks.

"A lot of people are proud to be Irish, and it's not just St. Patrick's Day," she said.

In fact, Mc Guinness told me Christmas is a bigger season for her shop than St. Patrick's Day. High-quality items like Belleek pottery or Galway crystal along with a variety of jewelry - extending well beyond the standard claddagh ring - are sought after year-round.

"I get people from all over Milwaukee - Mequon, Cedarburg - because it is a destination," she added.

The store also specializes in heraldics, giving people the history of their name.

"So many people are proud of their Irish heritage and it's not just for one day," she said. It makes sense, especially when you consider what a lot of Irish people went through to enter the U.S.

Holiday is different here

Having experienced St. Patrick's Day on both sides of the ocean, Mc Guinness said celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Wisconsin is rather different than celebrating the day in Ireland.

"I always question how drinking and St. Patrick's Day got connected because it is a holy saint's day," she said.

Her friends in Ireland are amazed to hear that people in Wisconsin start drinking early in the morning, maybe even at 8 a.m.

"Drinking is bigger here, especially time-wise," she added.

St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland and students learn the history of St. Patrick, whose accomplishments include banishing the snakes from Ireland.

Mc Guinness called it a day for families, starting with Mass in the morning. Every town also has a parade, similar to the Fourth of July here in the United States. Then, of course, people do go to the pubs for some socialization.

Get in the Action

Wearin' of the Green: With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, residents can find clothing, jewelry and other Irish at Mystic Ireland, 13425 Watertown Plank Road.

Visiting Erin: The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Call the store at (262) 784-5880, or visit it on Facebook at Mystic Ireland Elm Grove.

Julie Ann Marra is uncovering the heart of Elm Grove, its people and places. Call her at (262) 446-6634 or e-mail jmarra@cninow.com.

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