Landmark Killeen’s Irish Shop Soon to Be a Manahawkin Memory

Feb 26, 2019
Photo by: Maria Scandale

The pot of gold is here at 11 North Main St. in Manahawkin, but you have to move swiftly to catch it. The Killeen’s Irish Shop is closing.

Some soul-searching led Peter Killeen to keep his parents’ gift and specialty store open three years ago when his mother, Imelda, passed away in 2016. He did that and brought the inventory to its full glory, despite holding a counseling post up north. But now its time is coming to an end.

A consultant has been hired to plan marketing and special promotions up to the March 23 closing.

“We have so many items from Ireland, and you don’t see this anymore; this is a rarity,” Killeen remarked.

The shop is indeed a destination: a fine selection of gleaming crystal and china, Irish-made Aran sweaters, woolen scarves and imported linens, quality jewelry, handmade christening gowns and other baby gifts, Irish dolls, religious items and more to captivate customers. There are just plain fun things with Irish wit, too.

Imelda and Frank Killeen were knowlegable proprietors whose shop was close to their hearts. Imelda’s aunt had been a nun in Ireland, and her grandfather lived in County Galway. Her husband, Frank, who died in 2003, had enjoyed owning the business after retirement from the Port Authority. Imelda continued the shop until age 86, and by that time, hours had become less regular.

Peter had first followed his father into the Port Authority as a police officer and now is a stress counselor for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association with an office in Little Falls. He had intended to keep his parents’ legacy going for at least two years, and it has been three, as he explained.

“It’s a landmark in town; everybody knows the Irish shop. ... My vision was to build the business back up to where it was when my mom and dad had it,” he said. “I felt as though I accomplished that. But with my own work, I had to bring closure to it, and I wanted to go out on top.

“I wanted the store to be beautiful. And people who come in say it’s a beautiful store,” he was proud to sum up. “We have a lot of items to be purchased. But it’s a full-time job, and it’s really only a part-time store.”

A hope was that someone would buy the shop, but that did not materialize after a year on the market.

“The world has changed; the economy has changed,” the founders’ son remarked. The internet has changed everything.

“Accessibilty to items is much easier because of the internet,” Killeen noted, “but you never know what you’re getting. People like coming in; they like feeling the materials; they like trying on the sweaters; they like seeing the jewelry.”

He added, “And with the Irish items there is always a story; the Irish are good for that. Everything is about the story for the Irish. My mom certainly had a wonderful working history of the Irish and knew a great deal about that.”

The store closing consultant with the Denver firm G. A. Wright has planned a prize contest whereby customers can earn points with purchases and other points by answering trivia questions.

Customers, as they hear the news, are saying they will miss the unique, comforting place and its treasures. To Peter, the closing is “bittersweet.”

“A lot of them say, ‘We hate to see you go,’ he acknowledged Sunday while preparing for the final sales. “It’s funny, yesterday when I drove up to the store and saw the signs on the window, the reality set in. It hit, after so many, 40, years of the history.

“But everything comes to an end and has its life. This was my mom and dad’s. I just wanted to honor them and make the store nice.”

Store fixtures and furniture are also for sale. Extended hours ending March 23 are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Maria Scandale

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