“We’re happy to be able to serve the Irish and people who like to get a taste of home,” said Mary Conway as she sat alongside her husband, Gerry, on Monday.
The Conways own and operate Mary’s Irish Shop in the West End, at 874 W. Beech St., which opened in July 2016.
Whether they’re cooking an Irish breakfast for one of their regular visitors or offering cups of Cadbury hot chocolate to passersby during the West End Electric Light Parade, neighbors said that Mary and Gerry are known around town for their warm, inviting personalities.
The Conways, who are native to County Mayo, Ireland, opened the business after Gerry decided that Long Beach needed an Irish shop. All the products — ranging from black and white pudding to their best-selling boxes of Barry’s Tea — are imported from Ireland.
The shop also offers freshly made Irish soda breads and scones, baked and delivered daily by local chef and Long Beach resident Heather Ward, who started baking for the shop soon after they opened. She began by delivering 12 soda breads a week and now, she said, she delivers between 70 and 100.
“[Mary’s] reputation is unparalleled — just the word on the street,” Ward said, before raving about Mary’s egg sandwiches.
“They’re all crazy for the egg sandwiches,” Mary said, adding that parents often bring their children in before school for scrambled eggs.
Although she doesn’t advertise the shop — which is a quaint combination of a café, deli and diner — other than the sign above the door, Mary said she’s seen an influx of customers due to the good word of mouth around town. Now, Mary said, customers come from all over Long Island.
“This is the best store,” said Lindenhurst resident and local PSEG worker Myles Byrne, adding that his parents are native to Dublin. “The Irish sausages are the best. These are the closest ones I’ve ever had compared to Ireland. I always got to stop in. Every time I’m working, I got to come get candy.”
“It’s like home,” said Long Beach resident and regular customer Luke Kiely, referring to Ireland.
Mary said that the busiest days of the year are St. Patrick’s Day — and the days leading up to it — because people buy corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie to prepare for the holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas and, of course, Irish Day in October, are also busy days for the shop.
“You couldn’t find nicer people,” said Bill Peyton, former president of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Division 17 of Long Beach. “It used to be the best kept secret — now the word’s out. It’s a little taste of home — a taste of Ireland right in the middle of Long Beach. It’s the best Irish breakfast I’ve ever had.”
The AOH collaborated with Mary’s Irish Shop for events like Tasting by the Sea and the Electric Light Parade last year. Gerry, who also works as a contractor for The Clancy Group Inc. in an office next door to the shop, is involved in a community effort to rebuild the home of local resident Liz Treston after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy five years ago.
“They rally for the community — they stay busy,” Peyton said of the Conways. “Everything they do is seemingly not for themselves, but for an ulterior motive to support the community.”
“So many people have been coming in saying that they thought we were a gift shop,” Mary said. “They have no idea we’re doing food in here.”
Peyton said Mary’s Irish Shop is “the place to go to get what you need” for St. Patrick’s Day.
“We’re proud to be Irish,” Mary said, “especially on St. Patrick’s Day.”