In 2004, a gainfully employed engineer with two small children decided to do something surprising. Ward Gahan quit his steady job and opened a retail shop called Biddy Murphy in South Haven, selling authentic Irish goods and gifts.

Today, Biddy Murphy has become a trusted source for all things Irish: traditional woolens, unique tweeds, blessings, plaques, and other distinctive items made in Ireland.

“Customers love the quality craftsmanship in all of our products, but our Irish wool throws and comforter blankets are a perennial favorite,” said Gahan.

A native of County Tipperary, Ireland, Gahan was living and working in the States. And as a good son, he would make a couple of trips back to the motherland each year. Friends began asking him to bring back “one of those caps” or “one of those beautiful blankets.” Gahan recognized a real desire among his friends and neighbors for high-quality Irish goods that weren’t readily available. Also, as a proud Irishman, he wasn’t pleased with how the art and craft of his homeland was being portrayed.

“I was getting mail-order catalogs selling so-called Irish goods and saw the general trend of taking something made in China, sticking a shamrock on it, and calling it ‘Irish.’ I knew there was so much more than that.” Deciding it was time to act, Gahan ― as Biddy Murphy’s chief experience officer ― undertook a mission to bring the unique work of Irish makers to the US market.

“Creating Biddy Murphy allowed me to share my love for Irish culture and heritage while also helping to shine a light on these artisan makers, working to preserve these unique skills and generations of expertise,” he explained. Building relationships with these craftsmen fit well with his personality.

“I have so much fun telling the stories of these businesses, the owners, and their heritage,” Gahan said. While many companies ink contracts in the boardroom, he prefers to discuss business at the kitchen table with many of his suppliers, who feel more like family.

As the Biddy Murphy business has grown and times have changed, Gahan took his love for Ireland and blended it with his affinity for technology, creating an e-commerce store for Biddy Murphy. Now exclusively an online store, Gahan is able to reach a much broader market.

“You don’t have to be Irish to have good taste,” Gahan quipped.