Harp & Shamrock, a retail fixture in Tacoma's Proctor District, will close June 14

Staff writerJune 4, 2014 

It's enough to make a transplanted Celt shed a tear.

After 38 years, the Harp & Shamrock in Tacoma's Proctor District will close a week from Saturday. No longer will persons with a heart for Ireland, Scotland or Wales have a store in Pierce County.

Janet Joy opened the Harp & Shamrock after visiting Ireland with her partner.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to have an Irish import shop?” she said at the time.

“The history, the people, much of their craft product was just beginning to sell,” she said earlier this week.

“At first, like any new business, it grew slowly,” Joy said. “There was an Irish population here in the North End.”

She sold what she calls “fine Irish imports,” and the merchandise ran from jewelry, her best seller, to handmade Irish wool sweaters, Celtic knickknacks, books and bric-a-brac.

“After 38 years, it’s been a good run,” she said. “After 38 years, it’s time to close.”

She is closing the store, she said, because a proposed construction project will be “disruptive” to business, and beyond that, “business has been slow” in the Proctor District. 

Business has not been slow these past several days at the Harp & Shamrock, where Joy is selling her inventory, and the store fixtures, at store-closing prices.

“We are extremely thankful to our customers, some of whom have been with us since Day 1 or Day 2,” Joy said.

She also thanks the employees that have come and gone over four decades, and she said she very much appreciates the local traditional musicians and dancers who have performed at the store; one group she singled out for special thanks was Scoil Rince Slieveloughane.

Joy came to Tacoma to study at what was then known as the College of Puget Sound. For 30 years she has taught instrumental music in local schools.

Over the years, especially during the holiday shopping season, she would be particularly pleased when customers would proclaim, “Whoa, I did it all without going to the mall.”

Joy said the Proctor District was nowhere near as commercially viable in 1976 as it is today.

“It was about as low as it ever got,” she said. “We were just looking for a space as much like a small shop in Ireland as possible.”

In 1976 she bought a cash register from a downtown Tacoma pawn shop that had gone out of business, and that cash register serves her still. Over 38 years, no computers have assisted (or complicated) day-to-day business at the Harp & Shamrock, and during that time all sales have been recorded, by hand, onto paper slips.

The store closes on June 14.

Joy said there may be music, and dancing would not surprise her.



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