Bringing Ireland to Coeur d'Alene
COEUR d’ALENE — Ilene Moss has red hair. When she speaks, there is a hint of Irish in her voice. And yes, like most, she enjoys a Guinness now and then.
So, naturally, people often assume she is from Ireland. She looks like it. Sounds like it. One couple asked what part of Ireland she was from.
Ilene Moss shakes her head.
“Nine generations removed," she said, smiling.
Still, it is home away from home. And it helps explain the success of "All Things Irish" in downtown Coeur d'Alene, which she and her husband Craig Moss opened nearly 25 years ago.
Craig and Ilene Moss have been all about Ireland since first visiting there in 1994. It was their passion for the country that later led them to put heart and soul into their Sherman Avenue shop.
And to be clear, it’s never been about selling shamrocks and shillelaghs, which some might expect. It’s about bringing Ireland to Coeur d’Alene. It's about sharing that rich Irish culture with North Idaho.
“I hoped to provide an experience for people when they came here,” Ilene Moss said. “It’s not just some place to buy something, but be able to experience Ireland when they come in.”
All Things Irish
When one walks in the doors at 315 E. Sherman Ave., a voice quickly greets them. It is one of the staff.
An Irish tune can be heard on the sound system. Decorations and symbols of the Emerald Isle are everywhere. Movie posters of “The Quiet Man,” “Waking Ned Devine” and “Michael Collins” hang on the back wall.
And then, of course, there are the products from Ireland that keep customers coming back for more.
Wool vests, sweaters, capes and flat caps. Claddagh rings and necklaces and earrings. Trinity Knots. Celtic crosses. Galway Crystal. Guinness polos. Long-sleeved shirts with the word "Ireland" in one form or another hang from racks near the front door.
There are books with stories and scenes of Ireland. And if it's history you want, they can look up your name and trace your family crest.
Even a dog named Dublin is sometimes there, lounging out of sight behind the counters.
There are many and more items from Ireland, thanks to the Moss' long-time relationships they have cultivated over the past two decades with craftsmen, artisans and small, family run shops across the ocean.
"They’ve become really good friends," Craig Moss said.
It may be as close as you can get to Ireland without leaving Coeur d’Alene — or America, for that matter.
Craig and Ilene grew up in the Spokane area. They met at Keytronic, where Craig was an engineer and Ilene was in customer service.
As the story goes, they fell in love and today, are going on 42 years of marriage.
Remember, they also fell in love with Ireland on their first visit nearly 30 years ago. So they liked to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but there was a problem. There were no local Irish stores.
"There wasn’t anything to buy," Ilene Moss said.
So she came up with a solution.
"I told Craig, 'I should open up an Irish shop,'" Ilene said.
While the odds of finding a four-leaf clover might have been better than finding her husband agreeable, Craig was all in.
"That’s good," he said.
Over the coming months they discussed the idea more and visited other Irish stores. Soon, Ilene quit at Keytronic and wrote a business plan to open a store.
They signed a lease for a storefront on Sherman Avenue and went to work. The biggest challenge initially was getting products on the shelves. But through persistence and hard work, Ilene began building resources.
They opened Nov. 29, 1998. It was a one-person show, for the most part, with Craig helping evenings and weekends after finishing his full-time job.
“We didn’t start with a lot of capital, but we didn’t borrow any money," Craig said.
But they did borrow a few things.
“We had to borrow furniture from friends and family for displays and pictures," Ilene said, chuckling.
Customers wandered in, curious about an Irish store in Idaho. It was Christmas, so sales were brisk, which was good. But come the new year, there wasn't a ton of product left and some doubted All Things Irish could stand the test of time.
In their second year in business, the Mosses made what would be the first of many buying trips to Ireland.
They started hiring staff in 2001, and in 2007 they expanded into the space directly west.
It was fun, exciting and different, Ilene said, and they saw double-digit growth each year.
It was everything Ilene hoped it would be, not just in terms of sales, but in terms of people who came in and had been to Ireland. They wanted to hear and talk more about the people and places in that land far away.
"They’re generally excited about being here, and they want to share their experiences," Craig said.
Most people want to go to Ireland, and if they didn’t have it mind, they did after visiting All Things Irish.
"It sparks that interest," Craig said.
Craig and Ilene knew they had done something right when visitors from Ireland stopped in and came away impressed with the friendly staff and service — just like home.
"It's like Ireland," they said.
A second home
Craig and Ilene try to visit Ireland twice a year. Once on a buying trip, the second when they lead tours, which they have been doing for about a decade.
They make all the arrangements, acting as guides as they take groups around Ireland, with stops in Dublin, down to Dingle and up to the Cliffs of Moher and on to Donegal (their favorite place in all of Ireland) and places beyond and in between.
"It’s like traveling with 30 of our customers through Ireland," Craig Moss said.
"I love the tours, taking people to Ireland," Ilene added.
So, if Ireland is so great, would they want to live there?
Both say no. They love Coeur d'Alene and the four seasons. Ilene jokes that Ireland has four seasons, too: Rain, rain, rain and rain.
"Two weeks is enough because we know we’re going back next year," Craig said.
Both credit their employees, one full time and three part time, with taking care of the store like it's their own. Some have been with them more than a decade. They all know Ireland well and love talking shop with customers.
"It's their shop as much as mine," Ilene said.
"They're like family," Craig said.
The dedicated team allows Ilene to do more behind the scenes and find new creations from Ireland to bring to All Things Irish.
"I never wake up and think, 'I don’t want to work today,'" Ilene said. "I can’t wait to get to work."
When asked what makes All Things Irish so special, the Mosses offer different answers.
"Ireland," Ilene says.
"Ilene," Craig says.
One thing is certain: It's not luck.
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