If you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with something more authentic than green beer and a shamrock T-shirt, head over to the Irish Connoisseur in Glenview, a gem of a store on the North Shore and the only Chicago-area shop outside of the city’s Edgebrook neighborhood and Long Grove to offer goods directly imported from Ireland.
Northbrook native Megan Quinlisk Van Treeck grew up with Irish customs such as studying Irish dancing with the Sheila Tully Academy of Irish Dance. “I wasn’t very good at it though,” she admitted. Instead, she used to spend a lot of time shopping at the Irish Connoisseur. The store has been around for 29 years, but 19 years ago when the original owners stepped aside, Quinlisk Van Treeck bought it. “I’m still considered the new owner,” she said, laughing.
Quinlisk Van Treeck always knew she wanted her own business, but the budding graphic designer always thought it would be an ad agency—yet thanks to a “perfect set of circumstances” she was able to buy Irish Connoisseur and today continues its tradition of being a first thought for weddings, baby and housewarming gifts. While the shop, filled with food items, jewelry, clothing and crystal, does cater to a largely Irish customer base, Quinlisk Van Treeck makes the point that you don’t have to be Irish to shop here. “Come St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish anyway,” she joked.
Quinlisk Van Treeck carries mostly goods imported from Ireland that she acquires from trade gift shows, including one in January in the motherland. The classic Claddagh ring is probably her best seller but she also stays on top of trends to update her inventory, including a new collection of authentic Emerald Crystal and possibly some of the last batches of authentic Cadbury chocolates after Hershey’s sued to ban the sale of the imported delicacies in the U.S.
While Irish Connoisseur has been busy selling items for St. Patrick’s Day next week, Quinlisk Van Treeck also celebrates the holiday with her annual Soda Bread Contest. Last year she had 28 contenders ranging from “sweet to savory, dry to moist” varieties and stories behind every recipe. Next-door neighbor, Kitchen & Baths Unlimited, opens up its showroom for the occasion that welcomes the public to taste test and vote. As well, official winners will be determined by a panel of judges including Channel 2 reporter Ed Curran, Glenview Village Board President Jim Patterson and members of the Hackney family. The winner walks away with a $100 gift certificate. It takes place this Saturday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.