New Irish import store offers sweet memories to locals with Irish and U.K. connections

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Kitty O’Shea's Irish Imports on Eagle Rock boulevard in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Imports Store opened Wednesday, Oct. 17 on Eagle Rock Boulevard. The market offers a variety of imported Irish and U.K. products and is owned by local resident Sam Rovnova. She decided to open Kitty O’Shea’s after the building recently became available.

“I had a friend that had a shop for many years of this type, so I was familiar with the products,” Rovnova said. “I live in the [Eagle Rock] area and this little shop became available and I just thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’”

Rovnova’s Irish heritage was another source of inspiration for opening the store. Her grandparents came to the United States from Ireland in the early 20th century, and she remembers eating Irish candy as a child.

Owner of Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Imports, Sam Rovnova, in the store in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

“A lot of [this] candy I used to get as a kid. I’m from Chicago, and there’s a big Irish population there,” Rovnova said.

Rovnova has lived in Eagle Rock for nine years and said that in the building now occupied by Kitty O’Shea’s, there was previously a beauty salon, vintage store and computer repair store. According to Rovnova, the large number of restaurants in the neighborhood motivated her to offer something different to Eagle Rock by opening an imports store.

There is a limited number of import stores nearby, particularly ones with Irish connections, according to Rovnova.

Since most of the products sold at Kitty O’Shea’s cannot be found in conventional stores, Rovnova said customers are generally excited to see the variety of products offered at the store. She said she is still in the process of expanding her supply by ordering from her five wholesale importers.

“I want this to be a really well-stocked shop,” Rovnova said. “If there’s something somebody wants that I don’t have, I’m happy to look for it.”

Rovnova has already added Cadbury candy buttons, based on a customer suggestion.

Business has been slow since the store opened, according to Rovnova. She said one day there were no customers the entire day. Despite this, Rovnova is hoping to appeal to a wide variety of clientele.

“I specifically bought stuff that I thought might appeal to college people,” Rovnova said. “Like Pot Noodle and lots of chips.”

Rovnova said she has been reaching out to people in the local community with Irish, U.K. and Australian connections first, but is also hoping to attract people who want to try new foods and products. She said that, to her knowledge, there are only a few Irish-Americans in Eagle Rock, but that there are more British-Americans.

Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Imports shop is on Eagle Rock boulevard. Photo taken in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

News about the store has been slowly spreading on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Facebook Group, according to Jessica Clements, a Highland Park resident and customer at Kitty O’Shea’s.

“My mom and my dad both are from Northern Ireland and my sister and I were born over there but grew up in the States, so this is all stuff that we remember from our childhood. We used to have to go to Santa Monica to the King’s Head Pub — they have a little shop, and we’d have to go there to get our stuff. So, this is like a dream come true,” Clements said. “This is the penultimate English and Irish collection.”

Lorna Campbell moved to Eagle Rock from Scotland 10 years ago with her husband. She said she misses a lot of products from Scotland and is glad they are now being offered at a local store.

“Knowing we can get comfort food that reminds us of home is very heartwarming,” Campbell said via email. “We are so happy that we can buy the same items in our local neighborhood.”

Rovnova highlighted some of the most popular and unique products offered in the store, including tea from four different countries. The store also offers three brands of brown sauce, a condiment used in the U.K. and Ireland. The sauce, which is typically made from tomatoes, apples, molasses and a variety of spices, is usually put on bangers, which are a type of sausage, according to Rovnova.

Ribena, a blackcurrant flavored cordial (a sweet fruit concentrate) is another popular product, according to Rovnova. During World War II, it was distributed to British children for free as a vitamin C supplement, according to the brand’s website.

Rovnova said that Bisto, a gravy mix, and Paxo, a stuffing mix, are likely her two rarest products.

“You can’t find [them] in any of the grocery stores,” Rovnova said.

The store also has copies of The Irish Herald, which is the American West Coast’s oldest Irish newspaper, according to its website.

The other stores near Kitty O’Shea’s are getting ready for Small Business Saturday, which is Nov. 24, according to Rovnova. She said she hopes to attract more customers then.

“I’m really happy to be in the neighborhood, and I really hope that people find me,” Rovnova said. “It’s like meeting friends every time I get a new customer in.”

Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Imports is located at 4692 Eagle Rock Boulevard and is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The store is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.