The Irish Shop owner Anne August folds scarves for a customer Oct. 12, at the Irish Shop on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

For 30-plus years, the Irish Shop has been a destination for those looking to connect with the Emerald Isle from the landlocked western suburbs of Chicago. Known for its vast array of everything Irish, from surname key chains emblazoned with family crests to wool sweaters, the Irish Shop is an entirely unique and special part of Oak Park’s shopping landscape. That landscape is about to change, however, as the Irish Shop will be bidding the community slán, as its owners plan to retire.

“Hopefully this space will take on a whole new thing for someone else,” Anne August said of her storefront at 100 N. Oak Park Ave.

The Irish Shop is a family business, owned and operated by August and her husband Jim. The two often returned to Ireland – Anne August grew up in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland – for buying trips and to visit family. That familial charm permeates the Irish Shop itself: loyal customers are greeted by name, effortless conversations are had and directions are given to pass on well wishes to each other’s family.

“We’ve had many families come through here with their grandmother, their mother, their kids – the kids are all grown, now their kids,” August said. “Oak Park has been very good to us.”

With their lease up at the end of January and lacking the desire to renew it, closing the shop and retiring felt like the natural next step for August, who started working at 17. Her husband needed a bit of persuading to stop working.

“I kind of convinced Jim, I think, that it was time for us to retire,” she said.

The Irish Shop will be open through Christmas. As weeks go by, the Augusts will reduce and continue to reduce merchandise prices. Eventually everything will be on sale, including the fixtures.

“If anybody wants to buy the business, that’s great!” August said.

In the three decades of running the business, the married couple has been a dependable and leading presence in the Hemingway Business District, formerly known as the Avenue Business Association. Both even served terms as district president.

Beyond being the place to pick up celtic silver jewelry and Waterford Crystal wares, the Irish Shop carries beautiful knitwear, all made in Ireland of soft Merino wool. The sweaters and wraps are a particular favorite of August’s.

“The people that make them, they’re so creative,” she said. “Their product lines are so exquisite.”

The Irish Shop is also something of a local food gem for those in the know. The shop’s fresh bread sells out each Friday. The bread is made by Jim August, a professional cook. It also sold a variety of imported foods – sweets, savory pies, sausages, bacon, black pudding and more Irish fare that is hard to come by in the United States.

While speaking with Wednesday Journal about the closure, August stopped to help Cathy Malone, an in-home careworker who came in to pick up some white pudding for one of her clients, who lives in Park Ridge.

“He loves the stuff,” she said.

Wednesday Journal spilled the beans to Malone about the shop’s closure.

“What do you mean you’re retiring?” Malone asked August.

“I’m going to spend time with my grandkids,” August told her.

The Augusts will have plenty to do once the shop closes. The parents of four children, the couple has 13 grandchildren varying in age from 26 to 4. They babysit one of their grandsons at 7 a.m. every morning.

They also plan to take some time for themselves. The Augusts bought a vacation home in Antioch near the Chain o’Lakes that they’ll be refurbishing. The couple will continue to live in their River Forest home as well.

Once Malone’s shock subsided, she congratulated August on the upcoming adventure. The closing of the Irish Shop will certainly be an acute loss to the Oak Park retail community, but also to the many individuals that have come to rely on the Augusts and their shop.

“Of course I’m sad,” Malone said. “And I don’t know where I’m going to get my sausages now.”

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