By Chris Sturgis
The Cross and Shamrock is a store with price tags and cash registers, but it is also a 3,500-square-foot homage to the Emerald Isle.
Ann Carolan Bauersachs grew up in New York City, the youngest of seven children. Her mother, an immigrant from Ireland, decided to visit the homeland she had left 32 years earlier. Ann’s siblings were old enough to stay home with their father, also an Irish immigrant, but Ann, the baby of the family, got to accompany her mother.
That first glimpse of Ireland was reinforced by many more visits. Over the years, she became a registered nurse, married Len Bauersachs, who is half Irish despite his German surname, set up housekeeping in Hamilton, and raised two children, Erin and Timothy, but her devotion to the arts and crafts of Ireland remained.
“It’s a beautiful country. What is beautiful about it is the people. They are always light-hearted. They are never in a hurry. When you are welcomed to an Irish home, they say, cead mile failte, a hundred thousand welcomes,” Bauersachs recalled.
In 1985, Ann opened the shop, originally located at Quakerbridge Plaza, with a partner, Ann Alloway, a co-worker at St. Francis Medical Center.
“I was brought up with Irish music and Irish humor and faith, so I got the idea that an Irish store would be great,” Bauersachs said. “I thought that Irish crafts and religious items would complement each other.”
At first, their stock was so limited, the partners would spread out the rosary beads to make the store seem fuller, she recalled. They sold gold and sterling silver religious medals and sweaters, caps and scarfs. The sweaters are distinguished by their natural-colored wool and complex cabled patterns, which originated in the Aran islands off the West coast of Ireland.
The hand-knit sweaters cost about $220, while a machine-loomed version sells for about $95. The sweaters are generally knitted by stay-at-home mothers, who are getting harder to find as wages rise for work outside the home, she said.
Two years later, Alloway got married and left the business. Len Bauersachs retired from truck driving to take over the bookkeeping and administration of the store. Ann continued to work as a nurse and to teach health occupations when she wasn’t minding the store, making for some 70-hour work weeks.
“It was just part of my life. That’s what I did. I loved teaching and I loved nursing,” she said.
She said minding the store was more pleasure than business. “We have a different kind of customer. The vast majority are regulars. They come in once a month or once a week or to pick up a gift for a special occasion,” she said.
Bauersachs said making sure customers have a pleasant experience is very important to her. A year ago, she decided they wanted a new store and found the location on Route 33. After extensive renovations, they are pleased the white stucco shop has the look of an Irish cottage with big windows and natural light. A vestibule was added to shield customers from bursts of heat or cold when the front door opens.
The fireplace from the building’s former incarnation as a law office was spared during remodeling to add a homey touch. Employees are trained to greet customers politely and answer their questions accurately and thoroughly.
“It’s very important to us that our customers have a nice experience here,” she said.
The store also developed a close relationship with some local parishes, which hand out Cross and Shamrock fliers to families whose children need formal clothes for First Communion.
“It’s a very holy day,” she said.
The Cross and Shamrock, 1669 Route 33, Hamilton, N.J., 08619, is open 10 to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Sunday hours until Christmas: noon to 5 p.m. Call (609) 586-9696.
On the Web: crossandshamrock.com.