Aisles of treats from the Emerald Isle

When the luck of the Irish holds, the lovers buy Claddagh rings for their valentines, frat boys gearing up for St. Paddy's Day go for Guinness caps with built-in bottle openers — and come Christmas, there's a run on plum pudding and St. Nicks in Kelly green.

But holidays alone don't explain how a small Irish store survives year after year in a Hollywood mini-mall.

The plain brown shopping complex set back from Vine Street houses the usual suspects: a pawnshop, check cashing, Thai massage, tattoos. You see them without really seeing them — which makes the one surprise easy to miss.

The Irish Import Shop, which opened 50 years ago, is wedged between a dry cleaner and a nail salon. It has a neon shamrock in the window, and the blinds stay partly drawn to save the tapestries and woolens from fading.

Open the door and you might well sniff the scent of an Irish hearth — which, granted, is really a thumbnail tab of peat in a ceramic, cottage-shaped incense burner. Still, there's real Irish music playing (if the stereo's not on the fritz). And the lady behind the counter has a brogue, if slightly faded by years in California.

The phone rings, and Anne Colburn answers with a lilt. And here you discover the shop's secret, even today where on the Internet you can get anything without talking to anyone.

"It certainly is, and I know who this is," Colburn says. "Yeh, now, wait a minute here now — how much tea will you be wanting?"

Longing for home when you're far from it can take many forms.

You might yearn for familiar sounds, the hills and valleys of your people's speech.

You might miss the easy shorthand of shared experience.

You might desperately crave particular tastes, especially the comfort foods of childhood.

Throughout the store are many balms for the far-from-Ireland blues: Celtic crosses, Kerry capes, socks from Connemara, embroidered "ABCs of Ireland" baby books (P as in potatoes), hangings with the Irish blessing that starts, "May the road rise up to meet you…"

In the import shop's northernmost aisle, however, are more international cures.

Here are Irish and British teas shipped straight (and so not modified for American tastes), Cadbury Curly Wurly bars, Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles, McVitie's Jaffa Cakes and tall bottles of Ribena, a drink syrup made with black currants. A freezer holds Irish sausage, thick slabs of Irish-style bacon, tubes of black pudding and white pudding. And then there is the stack of canned Heinz baked beans — British style, in tomato sauce.

Into this aisle each day come the Brits and the Australians, people from the Caribbean, Canada, South Africa — many linked by lifelong habits of eating said beans on toast.

When Kessa Taylor, pregnant and homesick, walked in a few months ago, "I stood in the aisle and cried," she said.

"It's stuff that you were raised on. It runs so deep," said the 33-year-old who grew up in Wales and London.

Annie Jones started the shop with her husband, Richard, known as Jonesy, back when the Irish emigrated in large numbers and Jonesy still drove a bus. On Sundays, he had an Irish radio show, and people wanted to buy the music he played.

But it was the shop's food offerings that really took off.

"The English and the Irish," Annie Jones said when she stopped by recently for a visit. "They definitely agree on the tea and the biscuits and the bacon."

And as they stand together in the aisle, admiring the tins of custard and the digestive biscuits and the marmalades and the Marmite, they invariably agree on other things too — not least of which that in this little shop, they find themselves wonderfully at home.

[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story &quot;What is an Irish shop doing in a Hollywood mini-mall?&quot; on Storify</a>]<h1>What is an Irish shop doing in a Hollywood mini-mall?</h1><h2>The Irish Import Shop turned 50 last year. It is in a typical Hollywood mini-mall, wedged between a dry cleaner and a nail spa. It sells Celtic crosses and leprechaun egg cups and Claddagh rings and shamrock everything. But the biggest draw is the food, which eases the homesick blues.</h2><p>Storified by <a href="">LA Times City Beat</a>· Fri, Feb 15 2013 14:59:45</p><div>For my latest City Beat, I visit an Irish shop in a Hollywood mini-mall, &#0160;It&#39;s been around 50 years.LA Times City Beat</div><div>Sending you my visual reporter&#39;s notebook from the Irish Import Shop now. You&#39;ll see a series of photos.LA Times City Beat</div><div>The Irish Import Shop is in a typical LA mini-mall, wedged between a nail spa and a dry cleaner: Times City Beat</div><div>It has a neon shamrock in the window: Times City Beat</div><div>Obviously, the shop is just the place to go if you&#39;re stocking up for St. Paddy&#39;s Day: Times City Beat</div><div>Or maybe you want to make sure your little one knows from whence she came: Times City Beat</div><div>In need of a tea towel? At the Irish Import Shop you have many choices: Times City Beat</div><div>You can also find many ways to display your roots: Times City Beat</div><div>Or perhaps you want to tell someone how you feel: Times City Beat</div><div>It&#39;s a good place to get info on Irish people in LA -- be they traditional dancers or plumbers: Times City Beat</div><div>But the biggest draw is the northernmost aisle -- for sweets, biscuits, tea, rashers, black pudding: Times City Beat</div><div>Many who aren&#39;t Irish come for the food, says owner Anne Colburn. It eases the homesick blues:</div><div>Anne Colburn, owner of the Irish Import Shop in Hollywoodlatimescitybeat</div><div>People come for food and stay to chat, says Annie Jones, who started the shop with her husband Richard Jones (Jonesy) out of a room in their apartment. At the shop, there&#39;s no rush -- as in her tale of goose soup here:</div><div>Annie Jones, one of the original owners of the Irish Importlatimescitybeat</div><div>Read more about the Irish Import Shop here, in my latest City Beat: Times City Beat</div><div>And do take a moment to check out my other City Beats -- and my Twitter stories about them -- here: Times City Beat</div>

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