Just about the only thing better than an Irish brogue is hearin’ it spoken — and seein’ the smiles on the faces — of the owners of Peggy’s Cottage.
That’s the all-Irish, all-the-time shop that opened a wee bit ago across from Stop & Shop.
Irish candy, chips, drinks, flour, clothes, books, scented candles, gifts — they’re all there, in a Westfair Shopping Center store that looks like a cottage from the old country. Irish music plays in the background.
Brian Ellard and Meg Kirby are the owners. The Irish are known for their storytelling, and the couple’s tale is a grand one.
They’re both from Tipperary. He worked in a bakery, she at the local factory. In 1994 they decided to “chase the American dream.”
Meg’s uncle — Jim Fahey — had done the same thing, from the same county, in the 1960s. He had nothing when he arrived, but found work in construction. He helped build the first World Trade Center. After relocating to Westport he started a moving company, and built it into a big, successful business.
Brian worked for him for a while, then founded his own firm: Arra Carpentry. After 15 years, he and Meg embarked on a new adventure.
Peggy’s Cottage is exactly what Irish expats — and those from the rest of the UK too — have been looking for.
There are lots of them, too. Fairfield’s Gaelic-American Club is thriving. The area is filled with folks from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Throw in those who trace their ancestry there, those who have visited and love it, and those who are just curious, and the customer base is huge.
But the appeal is extra special for lads and lasses with brogues.
It wasn’t two minutes that I was talking with Brian and Meg when a young, red-headed guy walked in. He headed strait for the Alpen muesli.
“I’ve been looking for this for years!” he said. He’d found something similar in a couple of stores, but it didn’t taste the way he remembered it.
“Sugar is different in Ireland,” Brian explains. “It comes from sugar beets. That’s why the flavors are different — cereal, candy, all of it.”
Cows are fed differently too. The food he and Meg sell is the real Irish deal. They carry what they like.
And when customers ask for something — like Scottish potato bread — they add it to the shelves.
Customers tend to linger — and talk.
“Irish people like to socialize,” Brian says. “You know ‘the craic’ — that’s news, gossip, fun, entertainment, enjoyable conversation.” There’s plenty of the craic at Peggy’s Cottage.
And you know “the luck of the Irish”?
Westport is lucky too — to have Peggy’s Cottage right here in town.