John Hanly & Co recently took the opportunity to have a chat with Ward Gahan founder of Biddy Murphy , a long standing customer. We spoke to him on how he got started in the business , his Irish roots and the importance of stocking authentic Irish made goods.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your business:
Biddy Murphy is an online retailer focused on providing excellent customer service and high quality, authentic Irish goods and gifts to our customers. We started in 2004 with a small shop in South Haven, Michigan but have since expanded into online retail so we could share the joy of Ireland throughout the United States.
Q. How did you get started?
Originally from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, I had come to the States to work as an engineer. That career was going well but as the good son that I am, I would head back to Ireland to visit family regularly. Whenever I was visiting Ireland, I’d always pick up a few Irish gifts to bring back to friends in the states. I was disappointed seeing the stores and catalogues selling products labelled as “Irish” when realistically, they were cheaply made goods with a shamrock stuck on them. I knew that real Irish goods were high quality, well-made from techniques that had been passed down from generation to generation. I also knew I could represent the Motherland better. So I did what any logical engineer with two small children would do…I left a stable job and opened up an Irish shop in a small, tourist town in Michigan.
Some lads name their boats after their Mom. I named the business after my Mother Bridget – known as “Biddy.” Biddy Murphy honor’s her style and celebrates Irish heritage just as Biddy did for more than 90 years.
Q. How have you evolved over the years?
I had always been interested in technology, so in 2008 I took my passion for Irish goods and combined it with my fascination for this fairly new thing called the Internet. I saw it as an opportunity to share the joy of Ireland well beyond the reach we had from our little shop in South Haven. So I created BiddyMurphy.com. Online retail gave us the ability to tell more and more people the story of the artisans behind the high quality products that were crafted in Ireland. Continuing to look for ways to expand our reach, I was one of the first Irish retailers to set up a shop on Amazon too. That really increased our business exposure.
Learning from the bigger brands who were successful in retail, I also knew that customer experience would be the thing that would truly differentiate our company from others, so we keep the customer at the center of everything we do. We are committed to making their experience delightful by offering free shipping, free exchanges and free returns, every day with our “Delight of Make It Right Guarantee.” We wear the caps of our customers – not literally, every hat we sell is new – but we do listen to their needs and continue to improve our business every day. Whether you are purchasing for yourself or you are buying a gift, you’ll never regret being a customer of Biddy Murphy. We’ve turned the Irish hospitality that I experienced growing up into a way of doing business every day. Our aim is to create lifelong relationships with our customers.
Q. Tell us about how you got started with John Hanly and how the relationship has evolved.
As a Tipperary man myself, I was aware of the John Hanly brand and the fact that it was known to be one of the few remaining textile weavers and manufacturers in Ireland. I knew that it was family-owned, which was important to me. We wanted to partner with makers who are committed to honoring and preserving the culture, symbolism and traditions that have been instilled in Irish craftsmen. Building long lasting relationships and working together to promote authentic Irish products has always been an important part of the Biddy Murphy business.
We’ve been working with John Hanly & Co. for about 17 years now. It’s exciting to see how the relationship between our two companies has grown. I vividly remember lugging a large box filled with blankets onto my return flight from Dublin to Chicago. People were glaring at me because I was taking up too much overhead space. We now purchase enough to fill a 40-foot shipping container. I’d say that’s a positive evolution between our two brands!
Q. What do you particularly like about working with John Hanly & Co.?
The John Hanly brand is an ideal fit for Biddy Murphy. We are both small, family owned businesses who understand each other. I’m proud of the relationship that we’ve built with Brian. Rather than dealing with a large, multinational, faceless company, I like that we can cut through the layers and get to the straight story, owner to owner. We have created a mutually beneficial relationship based on sharing information and trust. It’s wonderful to have two small, family run businesses supporting each other. It’s truly one of the delights of this business. And it doesn’t hurt that we both support the Blue and Gold of The Premier County, Tipperary. Up Tipp!
Q. John Hanly & Co. is proud that it is 100% Made in Ireland. How important is that to Biddy Murphy that John Hanly products are genuine?
It is very important that the goods made by John Hanly & Co are genuinely made in Ireland. At Biddy Murphy we only sell authentic Irish goods and gifts. You won’t find us carrying anything from China. We believe there is a real difference in the products made in Ireland. Biddy Murphy is committed to preserving and promoting the skills and quality craftsmanship that you can only find in Ireland. Authenticity is how we differentiate Biddy Murphy in our market.
Q. Do you see the connection with Ireland changing as time goes on? Is there a possibility that we could lose the Irish-American connection?
We believe that you don’t have to be Irish to have good taste or appreciate quality, so we build relationships with the Irish and the “Irish-ish.” The lineage may get diluted but quality never goes out of style. Our products are premium and may, at times, cost a bit more but we believe our customers will be delighted and see the value in their selections. We are proud to offer options for purchasing goods that are not made in China.
Q. What type of customer feedback do you get about the John Hanly & Co. products?
John Hanly products are certainly a customer favourite. The vast majority of our customer reviews mention quality as the #1 reason they purchase our products. Whether it’s an heirloom throw blanket, a stylish scarf, cape or cap, our customers purchase these products because they know they are very well made and will look good for several years.