‘You don’t have to be Irish to love Ireland’: Irish Design Center celebrates Irish culture in Pittsburgh


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Outside the Irish Design Center on Craig Street.

By Elle Kenney, Staff Writer

For Ted Miller, a member of the County Mayo Irish Band, his Irish heritage plays a large role in life, and he is always looking for ways to strengthen his connection to that culture, including through spaces like the Irish Design Center. 

“We’re recreating the traditions and keeping them alive,” Miller said. 

The Irish Design Center, located at 303 South Craig St., plays a significant role in helping people like Miller celebrate their familial history even though they do not live in Ireland. The store sells a wide-variety of Irish Celtic goods and is a center for all things Irish in Pittsburgh. According to Tom Petrone, the Center’s owner, anyone can shop there, regardless of their heritage. 

“’We’re a hub of Irish culture in Pittsburgh,” Petrone said. “We connect the Irish community and we believe that everyone who walks in this door is Irish. You don’t have to be Irish to love Ireland.”

The store has existed for 45 years and was originally owned by Paul Carey, who was born in Ireland. Petrone and his wife Maura Krushinski took over the store 5 years ago in 2018 and have added to the wide variety of items the Center sells. In addition to selling clothing and jewelry from Ireland, Petrone and Krushinski now sell food imported from Ireland. 

Nancy Augustine, a frequent customer and Pitt Public Health staff member, talked about the store’s importance to her and her family. 

“It really helps to foster the Irish community in Pittsburgh,” Augustine said. “My daughter bought her Claddagh ring here. My paternal grandparents were born in Ireland and emigrated here to Pittsburgh, so this store means a lot to me.” 

The Center also hosts different events that celebrate and promote Irish culture. On Saturday, March 11, they gave out samples of Irish drinks and food for a customer appreciation sale,and the County Mayo Irish Band performed live music for the customers. 

According to Miller, people living in the United States a few generations removed from their immigrant ancestors might forget their cultural traditions. He said people going to the Irish store or listening to their authentic music helps keep and recreate these traditions.

“Two generations after somebody’s family came here they usually aren’t in touch with the old traditions,” Miller said. “Hopefully, through the events and items the Center offers, we’re passing them on to another generation.”

Beyond the store, they also support the Pittsburgh community on a larger scale. Krushinski and her sister founded the Pittsburgh Irish Festival as a way to continue Irish tradition and pride. 

“We started the Pittsburgh Irish Festival 34 years ago, and that grew out of a mission to keep the culture viable for folks,” Krushinski said.

Additionally, Petrone said they create fundraising baskets for local organizations, such as Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. While Krushinski does not plan or organize the Pittsburgh Irish Parade, the Center does support it along with any Irish events in Pittsburgh they hear of. 

For people who need assistance in understanding Irish culture, Petrone said they consult people on Irish weddings, baptisms, confirmations and traveling to Ireland. According to Petrone, their main goal is to connect people and ‘promote and preserve’ the culture. 

“Our mission is to promote Irish culture through us making the merchandise available, but more importantly to connect people with the culture,” Petrone said. “So we really support the manifestation of Irish culture through the customs of Ireland.”

To further help people connect with Ireland, Krushinski said they have a program called “Come to Ireland with Tom and Maura,” in which the group travels together to different parts of Ireland. The next trip they are planning is in October, in time to celebrate Halloween in its country of origin. 

“‘Come to Ireland with Maura and Tom’ is what we’re calling them,” Krushinski said. “Our golf trip in April is sold out. Our next trip will be in October, which is when Halloween was founded in Ireland, so we get to experience Halloween in the motherland.” 

On St. Patrick’s Day, they plan to have cookies, refreshments and special deals for customers. According to Krushinski, in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday, so it’s typically a quiet and peaceful day.

“It’ll be a combination about our pride in the culture but also honoring the holy day,” Krushinski said.

The store is open 5 days a week from 10 a.m to 5 p.m, except on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Musicians sing and play music inside the Irish Design Center on Craig Street. (John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer)