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At your service: Peter Townsend

At Your Service: Peter Townsend

At Your Service: Peter Townsend

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Updated: December 6, 2012 6:09AM



Occupation: Co-owner with his wife Jennifer, Irish on the Square, 102 S. Main St., Crown Point, 662-7200, www.irishonthesquare.com

Hearing you speak hints of an upbringing in Ireland. Is that so? “I’ve only been in the United States for 10 years. My wife’s from Indiana and I met her in Ireland while she was on holiday, so I came back here with her. And I set up a business doing Irish festivals, selling arts and crafts, and from there it grew from not just doing arts and crafts, but Irish imports. So now we have about 12 to 15 other suppliers of products that I sell. We also wholesale; we have about 150 accounts with stores throughout the United States.”

How do you bring your knowledge of Irish culture to the Midwest? “Many people have been celebrating their Irishness at St. Patrick’s Day. Ten thousand people came to Crown Point on St. Patrick’s Day (2012). I couldn’t get out of my shop; it was just jam-packed. So there’s a lot of people here who know their roots; they don’t need me to help them find them. I see (my business) as filling a niche market because there’s no other Irish shop between South Bend and Chicago.”

Describe the inventory at your store on the old courthouse square. “Customers can have anything personalized: from their last name to their first name, and anything from weddings to Christenings, baptisms, and graduations — anything that is a family’s special time in their life. We can write blessings, poetry and calligraphy … everybody has a last name and everybody has a history, so (family name histories) is a product that everybody seems to like. (We can prepare) not just Irish names, but German, French and Spanish; we do all nationalities. We do almost any coat-of-arms, because our database has a half-million names from all European countries.”

What was your line of work back in Ireland? “I was an illustrator, a book illustrator, in the city of Derry, in Northern Ireland. Some people call it Londonderry, some people call it Derry.”

You mentioned that you attend festivals and market your products. What are the major events? “There’s the Milwaukee Irish Festival (in the summer). It’s the biggest Irish festival in North America. We have a booth there … near the rock stage at the north entrance of the festival grounds. There’s a lot of people — 200,000. It’s been well organized by the president of the festival, who started a music school for young musicians at the cultural center and from there they expanded into doing the festival. It’s been going on for over 20 years. (We’ve attended) for eight years.”

What do you like best about operating your business? “I like doing this because I’m not tied to a 9-to-5 job for somebody else, because it’s my own business. And when I get an idea, I can expand on it and submit it to the stores that I supply. Sometimes stuff doesn’t sell and sometimes it sells really good. So I like experimenting with different products. It’s helpful that I came from Ireland and it’s Irish stuff that I’m selling because it gives me a little bit more (know-ledge) about who I’m selling to, what they’re looking for.”

What is the ballpark price range for your personalized items? “My price range starts from $12 to about $120 for the things that I sell. We do do jewelry, but it’s called fashion jewelry, Celtic fashion jewelry. It’s not the high-end gold stuff, but we do have contacts with Irish wedding band manufacturers of gold rings. And those we just show the catalogs and can take orders. We have guys’ bracelets made of stainless steel: some are blank and some have the (Gaelic) writing and translation. We have a clothing department. We have shawls and Donegal tweed hats.”

Do you have other locations where you sell some of your products? “We have two other stores: one in Shipshewana at the flee market, which is a family name history and coat-of-arms store, which has been going on for five years. And we have a store at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, where we also sell coats-of-arms and family histories. And we’re now in our fourth year. I have six staff (members) that I employ from April to October.”

— Compiled by Anthony D. Alonzo,
Post-Tribune correspondent



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