Irish heritage means all for third-generation businesswoman

Apr 25, 2024 • 4 min. read | By Beth A. Klahre

To Cathy Lynch, third-generation owner of Timeless Irish Treasures, a wholesale and online shop of the very finest Irish goods and gifts, her Irish heritage is everything.


“My parents never lost their Irish brogue. I was teased in school about words I picked up from my mother,” said Lynch, who grew up in New York City. “I never got a full New York City accent due to the flavors that came from my parents."


At age 5, Lynch started taking Irish dance classes. She continued them for 12 years, during which she developed friendships she cherishes today. Lynch danced at former President Nixon’s inaugural ball, at Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall. And she took accordion lessons.


Lynch’s journey to owning Timeless Irish Treasures is one of perseverance that goes back generations. Her grandparents traveled back and forth between England and Ireland for work. They finally settled in Ireland, where Lynch’s mother was one of eleven children. In 1923, Lynch’s great-aunt opened Mattie Haskins Irish Imports in New York City.


In the 1950s, her father immigrated to help run the store. Eventually, he opened his own retail store, where Lynch worked as a teenager until it closed when he became ill. After the original shop transferred family hands several times, Lynch purchased it from a cousin in 1978. She changed the shop name to Mattie Haskins Shamrock Imports, and her mother was the sole operator. When business soared, Lynch quit her job as a stock trader at Merrill Lynch to co-run the store.


At the loss of the store's lease in 2000, Lynch pivoted the business to wholesale, which she renamed Timeless Irish Treasures. Operating from a suite of offices in Nyack, New York, until 2007, she relocated to Wilmington to be closer to her daughter, who had been living in Wilmington for years.


“I loved the weather, I loved everything about Wilmington,” Lynch said, also recognizing that she could run the wholesale business from anywhere. 


But she still had retail in her heart, so she opened Sinead’s Cottage, named after her daughter, on Carolina Beach Road. Lynch ran the wholesale business out of the back of the cottage. Eventually, she moved everything to Front Street in downtown Wilmington. Then came COVID.


“I survived during COVID by designing and selling 30,000 handmade masks with Irish sayings and shamrock prints, which I sold to Irish shops over the U.S. and Canada,” she said. “I hired two seamstresses to sew the masks from fabric that I purchased at Joann Fabrics until the two just couldn’t keep up.” 


Then Lynch secured a large manufacturer.


Persistence paid off, and today Lynch sells her Irish treasures online along with running the wholesale business. She also designs jewelry with Irish sayings and symbols sold in 300 stores in eight countries on three continents. Her fashion bracelets tell stories of Irish culture, humor, blessings, heritage and history. While it’s hard for Lynch to choose her favorite, the claddagh ring is on the top of her list. 


“The ring is meant to be given, not purchased for yourself,” she said. “The heart represents love, the hands friendship and the crown royalty.” 


The online shop also sells clothing, accessories and giftware, all with an Irish flair.


While last year represented 100 years in business for her family, Lynch is proudly continuing the anniversary celebration into this year.


When she is not traveling to trade shows across the East Coast or annually to Showcase Ireland in Dublin, she might be found at a local Irish festival or volunteering as a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Lynch runs the order’s annual craft fair held at St. Mark Catholic Church in Wilmington, where all of the vendor fees are donated to local charities.


“It keeps me in touch with my roots and heritage,” she says.