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Inside Real Irish: Downtown Ann Arbor's newest retail shop

Photo: Meredith Bruckner

ANN ARBOR – Stuart Marley is no stranger to Ann Arbor.

Born to Irish parents and raised in an Irish community in North Wales, Marley moved here in 1993 with his wife, Meredith McGehee, and worked for 18 years at Zingerman's Deli and Bakehouse.

In the mid-90s, Marley and McGehee began attending Irish and Celtic festivals in the area, which gave him the idea to import and sell high-quality goods from Ireland.

Together, they temporarily ran a kiosk next to Le Dog cafe on Main St. selling Irish-made clothing and apparel.

After a short stint in the Arbor Hills complex, Marley opened the first brick-and-mortar Real Irish on Main Street in Brighton but always had his sights set on Ann Arbor.

Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner

Once word got out that Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookshop was closing last year, he moved quickly to lease the shop at 213 S. 4th Ave., which he has transformed into a bright, airy space filled with cozy woolens, from sweaters and throws to scarves, and traditional hats and riding jackets.

Not everything is from Ireland. A line of his bestselling products -- handbags by Harris Tweed -- is made in Scotland.

Harris Tweed handbags at Real Irish (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

He also sells jewelry, beauty products, leather goods, housewares and popular Irish candies, teas and other treats.

Marley can tell you in which county of Ireland just about any item was made and who made it. 

Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner

He also leads several private and group tours to Ireland every year with his travel company, Real Irish Travel. Last year, Real Irish Travel took 102 people on five tours to Ireland, and he has more tours planned for 2019.

Marley enjoys meeting customers and loves sharing a bit of his family's home country with them. 

He says his neighboring business owners, Dear Golden and Today Clothing, have been supportive and welcoming.

"It’s good to be back," said Marley. "It’s really nice to have a shop in the town where you live, (and) this is the street that I wanted to be on."

Pay Real Irish a visit the next time you're downtown, or visit its online store here.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.