If you need a talented seamstress to make up anything you can possibly imagine, Irma is the lady you need to know. Irma has done countless projects for me over the years. Simple things, like hemming pants and shortening curtain panels, to more complicated jobs like re-lining my favorite wool coat and making pillows out of an old chenille bathrobe of mine for my children.

Being a person that doesn’t have the ability to properly sew on a button, Irma’s talent in her trade is nothing short of miraculous to me. Irma has also made all of the formal gowns for the Grand Colleens and Court members in Holyoke for years, and all of the Holyoke Tartan scarves, neckties and corsages. She is an institution in the City of Holyoke. This year, Irma is the proud and very deserving recipient of the prestigious Citizenship Award from the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Committee.The Citizenship Award is presented to a person or organization that may be of non-Irish descent that has made substantial contributions to the Parade and/or the Parade Committee.

From the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade website, we learn more about Irma’s amazing background:

“Irma Ilia Perez Gourde is a self-made woman and an entrepreneur. She was raised on her family’s coffee plantation in Utuado, Puerto Rico, where she learned the survival skills that accompany rural life, including how to sew.
When her parents were at the hospital due to a complicated pregnancy, nine-year-old Irma realized that her brothers and sisters had nothing to wear to a school celebration the following day. She took the fabric her mother had purchased, and in one day made three jumpers and two pair of pants. She dressed the whole family so her parents could see the doctor and the children would look respectable at the school event.
Her family moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1957, and 12 years later (at age 31) Irma opened the Suffolk Tailor Shop in Holyoke.
In 1990, a fire at the Knights of Columbus above the shop forced her to move her business to Springfield, but not for long. Less than a year later, Irma and Gladys, her sister and partner, realized their loyal customers needed them, and they relocated to 358 High Street in Holyoke to return the loyalty they had enjoyed for so many years.
The Suffolk Tailor Shop has been working with the Irish Heritage Parade Committee since the late 1980s. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve this well-respected community.
In her spare time, Irma enjoys gardening, Bible study, traveling, and spending time with her family.”

I wish to congratulate my friend, Irma, on this honor. I am proud to share our last name (Irma’s late husband was my husband’s Uncle Albert). If you have been searching for someone that has expertise in the vanishing trade of tailoring, go see my friend, Irma and her sister Gladys, at the Suffolk Tailor Shop 358 High Street, Holyoke, (413)532-0731

img_2665You can’t avoid the fact that it’s parade season here in the Pioneer Valley. All things Irish are in full force with the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade coming to town this Sunday, March 19. It’s one of my favorite events of the year and I love all of the preparation that goes into the event. I love the community feel, the Irish heritage, the local pride.

I’m proud to carry the official Holyoke St. Patrick’s Tartan in the shop here at Cooper’s. There are only a few places around the valley you can find it and we’re proud to stock the neckties, scarves and corsages. It’s a beautiful tartan — and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans. Have you ever wondered where the colors come from? According to the site:

[It was] designed in 2002 by Gerald D. Healy (2002 President) & Ralf L. Hartwell Jr for the Holyoke St Patrick’s Committee in Holyoke Massachusetts which is home to the second largest St. Patrick’s parade in the USA. Colours chosen: red, white & blue from the US flag; green white and gold from the Irish flag and the Parade Committee; green & white from the Holyoke Community College; purple & white from the Holyoke High School; green and gold from the Holyoke Catholic High School and black & gold from the Dean Vocational High School.

What distinguishes tartan from plain old plaid? Well a tartan design is specifically created for a particular clan. In this case, the Hoyloke clan. According to the insert that comes with each tartan piece sold:

The Irish People were more inclined to wear the Tartan of the Country where their families originated. Our objective in creating the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Tartan was to duplicate the Irish tradition and allow us to identify fall that is good about Holyoke. The colors selected came from: the American flag; the Irish flag, the Parade Committee; Holyoke Community College; Holyoke High School; Holyoke Catholic High School; and Dean Vocational High School. The amount of color in a tartan is not as significant as having the color represented. Some colors are easily identified while other are more difficult. For example: the blue from the American flag can be found where the blue crosses the purple; the gold (orange) of the Irish flag can be found where the red crosses the gold, and the black from Dean High School can be found where the red crosses the purple. The Holyoke St. Patrick’s Tartan having successfully completed all the requirements for international tartans has been awarded certificate #5772.

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Please wear the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Tartan in sound health and always with dignity and pride as it represents all that is good about Holyoke. All proceeds from the sale of tartan products will be used to offset the expenses of presenting the annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

See you at the parade! #holyokepride

 

Many of my favorite items in the shop are the ones made right here in the USA. I love to support American manufacturers. Bonus points if the items was made here in New England. So I’m very proud of our new display at the front of the shop highlighting some of our American made products:

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Some our Massachusetts proud products of course include Yankee Candles from South Deerfield:

 

 

 

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Kringle Candles from Bernardston:

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And our curtains from A. L. Ellis have been manufactured in Fall River, MA for five generations:

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Dune Jewelry — the unique beach sand jewelry — is based in Boston:

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Our line of Mangiacotti plant-based personal care products hail from Attleboro:

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We also carry products made in the USA that help us celebrate our townie pride, like the Westerwald Pottery from Scenery Lane, PA and Paint the Town signs from right here in Three Rivers, MA:

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The town glassware is manufactured by Susquehanna Glass in Columbia, PA:

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The Bread & Bun Warmers by Seneca Ceramics come out of Phelps, NY:

All of our Barnett Products chair pads from come from Macon, GA:

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We’re proud to support artist Darren Gygi who creates his box signs in Utah:

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The Silver Forest jewelry is made in Bellows Falls, VT:

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I’d love to add even more American made items to our inventory. In fact, I’d like to take it hyper local and add some new items from right here in Western Mass. Do you know of a local artist, designer, craftsperson or maker who whose product might be a good fit for Cooper’s? Please encourage him or her to send us an email at coopercrew@aol.com with some photos and descriptions of their items. If we see something that looks like a fit, we’ll give them a call. We’d love to offer some more products locally made so let us know your talent. #buylocal #supportyourown

Last Summer, while vacationing at the Cape, a stranger helped to rescue our 6 year old son from a dangerous situation. It turns out that the “stranger” was actually from the same small town and I am a firm believer that she was a Heaven-sent guardian angel that day. We nominated Pamela Murphy, of the Agawam Fire Department, for a Hometown Hero Award from the Western Massachusetts American Red Cross, and she will be honored for her selfless act of heroism on March 17th. Amber Wakely, Editor of Go Local Magazine, tells the whole story perfectly here in her “Hometown Hero” article in the March 2017 issue. Pam, we love you, thank you and salute you! Here’s the link, find the story on page 41-42.

https://www.flipsnack.com/7BFD6B7EFB5/go-local-march-2017.html

You can also check out WWLP’s coverage of our hero here

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It’s March and we’re celebrating all things Irish here at Cooper’s. One of our most popular products by far is the Inis perfume we carry in store. It’s a unisex fragrance that is manufactured by Fragrances of Ireland.

According to the company:

A sparkling, clean unisex fragrance that captures the coolness, clarity and purity of the ocean, Inis the Energy of the Sea is a favorite around the world. Inspired by the beauty and energy of the wild western coast of Ireland, Inis (the word means ‘island’ in Irish) instantly refreshes and brings a happy feeling.

Fresh, clean and energizing, top notes of lemon and marine bring a fresh feeling, like sunshine on your face, heart notes of lily of the valley are like a soft summer breeze on your body, while base notes of sandalwood and clove give an earthy warmth like sand between your toes.

We carry Inis perfume/cologne, body lotion, hand cream and gift sets. You’ve undoubtedly smelled the fragrance in the shop before. It’s very distinctive and someone is usually wearing it while shopping or working. It’s not only a great product but I appreciate the fact that Fragrances of Ireland is committed to protecting the ocean and the environment.

How could you not want to support a company whose core ideology is “to inspire and uplift and make people happy through their senses. To promote an understanding that we are all connected and we should all strive to make a better world.”

While there are many reasons I love this product, my absolute favorite thing about Inis is how it reminds me of the beach. Some of my favorite family memories have taken place on the beaches of Cape Cod. How about you? What is your favorite beach? Use the comments field below to share your favorite seaside escape and you’ll be entered to win an Inis Discovery Set which includes a 0.5 fl. oz. Inis the Energy of the Sea Cologne, 2.9 fl. oz. seaweed-enriched Revitalizing Body Lotion and Refreshing Shower Gel, and a 1 fl. oz. Nourishing Hand Cream ($29 Value). One winner will be chosen on Friday, March 10.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together. Set aside.

Mix softened butter, egg, raisins and buttermilk together.

Mix in the dry ingredients.

Divide the dough in half. Put each half in a greased 8-inch aluminum pie plate.

Bake 50 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Mix well and drizzle over slightly warm bread.

Enjoy!

Vendor Spotlight: Aranware

February 18, 2017

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Created in Ireland. Created for everyone.

This is the tag line of Aranware dishware made by Kara Irish Pottery. And it’s so true. I love the versatility of the Aranware collection. Its pieces can be added to any dinnerware collection seamlessly.

As you know my mission here at Cooper’s is to encourage the shop local movement so of course I love the fact that the US Headquarters for the company is right here in Massachusetts — in Methuen. Kara Irish Pottery is also a woman-owned business. Two cheers.

Aranware was created by Ann Mullan-Karakatsanis who grew up in Ireland and first came to the US in the 1990s to participate in a Boston College program aimed at developing Irish entrepreneurship.

According to the company’s website:

The name KARA is derived from the Gaelic word Cara meaning friend and the beginning of Ann’s family name Karakatsanis. Working with her former employer Ulster Ceramics and Carrigaline Pottery in County Cork Ann designed and developed the Aranware Tableware Collection which combined a rich heritage with a unique look. The embossed intricate patterns have changed little over time. Aranware has become a popular Collection with customers across the US and whilst aiming to keep it Irish made Aranware Tableware pieces are today both Crafted in Ireland and made of bisqueware (unglazed pottery that has had its firing) in the heart of the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent.

The cosy cablestitch sweater has long a wardrobe staple of rugged fashion traditionalists. Named for the famous Aran Isle stitch patterns, the serving pieces offer the same sturdy practicality as their predecessor, while trading on the popularity of classic creamware. And just as neutrals are the foundation of every wardrobe, the dishes offer simple styling on their own, plus lots of opportunity for dressing it up by mixing with colourful pieces.

I feel that the Aranware pieces are too beautiful and functional to be kept in a cabinet. I’ve given many pieces as shower gifts; and they are always a hit. They go from oven, to table, to dishwasher and clean up is a breeze. I swear, the finish is like Teflon, nothing sticks. And, they are durable! You don’t have to worry about chips and cracks, Aranware is meant to be used. The serving bowl is not only utilitarian on any dinner table, it also makes a beautiful centerpiece with a few pieces of fruit, a tall candle or florals. The tea cup and saucer set are durable enough for daily use, but also lend an elegant touch to any hutch display. But, I think my favorite piece is the pitcher. I have had it filled with a floral arrangement and sent as birthday or sympathy gift to many an Irish friend.

Adding any piece of Aranware to your kitchen is like having that favorite Irish knit sweater in your closet…you reach for it time and time again.  You know it will look great with any outfit and last for years to come. A true classic. #shoplocal #madeinireland

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chocolatesWe’ve been proud to carry Abdallah Chocolates for a few years here at Cooper’s. Not only because they are incredibly delicious, but because they are made right here in the USA and Abdallah is a fourth generation, family-owned business (being a second generation shopkeeper, I’m a little partial to stories like this). The confectioner was started in 1909 in Minneapolis, MN by Albert Abdallah.

According to Abdallah:

[Albert] understood, as a newcomer to this country, he would have to create a product that was so high in quality, that its success would be guaranteed. The ambitious Lebanese native along with his new Swedish bride, fair and beautiful Helen Trovall, would soon tirelessly supply their growing demand for his fine confections. Again and again, a new recipe would be perfected. Together, the family has fought back through bankruptcy as a result of the great depression, rations during World War II and a devastating and fiery explosion that destroyed their business in 1965. footer_background_imageAlbert’s recipes, perseverance and optimism has inspired a lineage of family candy makers through the evolution of this great country that he had risked everything to be a part of.  Using the same wholesome and pure ingredients, intricate small batch candy-making techniques and even some of the same copper kettles, we honor the courage and passion for excellence of family generations before us. We are proud to offer to you, these classic confections.

Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Continuing on a family tradition is no easy task most days, but it’s always worth the effort. I’m so proud to help support American businesses like Abdallah.

Today, the company is owned by Karen and Steve Hegedus who proudly carry on the tradition of exemplary quality. Their truffles are unbelievably good. I also appreciate the fact that these chocolates come in beautiful packaging ready for gift giving.

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We just received a shipment of chocolate bears, heart-shaped boxes, truffles, pecan grizzlies and sea salt caramels (oh, my). We only stock Adballah chocolate at Valentine’s Day and it always goes quickly so stop by and grab yours today!

#familybusiness #madeintheusa #delish