Ginty's Irish Gifts, in Morristown, was born after Kathleen Ginty Hyland returned from her first trip to Ireland 30 years ago. She jokingly mentioned to her husband that she'd like to own a gift shop that specialized in all the treasured items she'd grown up with.
"Our mother was born in Ireland and our father's parents were born there so products like wool and crystals were very much a part of our lives growing up," Hyland said. "My sister (Mary Ginty Parker) and I started talking about it and we did it and we've been in business for twenty-nine years.
"We started out right on DeHart Street. We shared a shop with Caswell-Massey and within a year we'd taken over the whole store. One thing led to another and we were very successful from the moment we opened the door. It's been fun just being around people."
No one is a stranger at Ginty's Irish Gifts. A trip to the shop is a bit like visiting charming relatives and bit like attending a comedy show. The clever banter between the sisters keeps the customers not only laughing but coming back.
The affable duo get their love of business and community from their father, John "Jack" Ginty, for whom a park and large sports complex on Woodland Avenue, the John W. Ginty Memorial Field, is named. "It's right near where we grew up," said Hyland, of Morris Township. "Mary lives right down the street in the house our father built in the 1940s."
"That's right," said Parker, showing her Irish wit, "they liked me best so I got it."
"Our father was very involved in community. He was a committee member from 1947 to 1971 and he served as mayor for four years in the 1950s," Hyland, who was mayor herself in 1993 and 1994, said. "He was also the first president of the Morris County Vocational School and then on the board there until he died and then I was on the board there for thirty years."
In addition to the enjoyment of building a business together, the continued success of the store has brought the sisters great joy, said Hyland, who previously had very limited retail experience. "I worked at Sears part-time while I was in high school but that was it. We had no real buying skills, but we made it work."
Hyland said while today's economy is not the best, she and her sister keep "plugging away." The entrepreneurs also run a seasonal shop in Long Beach Island, which enjoyed its 27th season last fall.
But no matter what the financial environment might be, one time of year that business is guaranteed to be booming at Ginty's Irish Gifts is St. Patrick's Day.
"We definitely see a boost around St. Patrick's Day," Hyland said. "We sell a lot of Irish sweaters and tweed caps for men. Celtic jewelry is popular and people come in for small items, parade items and Irish music."
Christmastime is the busiest season for the shop, Hyland said, and she and Parker often enlist the help of their sister, Margaret, a former high school English teacher, who also assists with Internet sales—a recent addition to Ginty's business.
The heart of Morristown is the perfect location for the shop because, as Hyland pointed out, many first-generation Irish families settled there while she was growing up.
"People have stayed around here for all those generations. I have three children and nine grandchildren and they all live in Morris Township. Jim Hennessey (owner of Hennessey's Washington Bar) was my partner in my sister's wedding," said Hyland, who regularly runs into childhood friends around town.
The good times don't end on St. Patrick's Day for the Irish sisters.
"We'll have an anniversary celebration probably the Saturday after the parade, the 19th, because there's just too much traffic the day of the parade," Hyland explained. "My granddaughter is an Irish step-dancer and my son-in-law plays the bagpipes, so we've got it all covered."