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Phileomena Ann Bourke, or Irish Ann to her friends and customers. Ann was born and raised in Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland. In 1994, I officially won my “green card” in the lottery and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois.
Life in Ireland was not easy. I was born in 1953, the youngest of eight children. My father was in construction in England and my mother raised us in Claremorris in a three-room cottage that sat on five acres; we truly lived off the land. We were not well off, but my mother, who died last year at 100 years of age, taught us a work ethic that has served me well. My job, as a 12 year-old child, was to keep the cattle watered, and that required round trips of two miles every morning while carrying five-gallon buckets of water. We had no water on our land so I had to get it from a spring two farms away. After the morning watering of the cattle, I went to school. After school, I worked until after dark, keeping the cattle watered and helping my brother and mother feed and care for the livestock.
When I arrived in Chicago in 1994, I got very involved in the Irish community, which led to several jobs, some at the same time, in the hospitality business. In 1999, my husband, whom I met at Hawthorne Racecourse (he was a horse owner/trainer and I was the banquet manager) and I bought a small farm in Wilmington, Illinois and we moved there to raise goats, chickens, and Great Pyrenees dogs.
In 2009, I rented a building in Wilmington and opened The Trinity Knot, a retail store which featured antiques, vintage collectibles, and an Irish Shop—it became very successful! In the summer of 2013, after a great run of four years, The Trinity Knot had expanded to 10,000 square feet of sales space after I bought two additional buildings. I had a store that was known as “the most unique shopping experience in the Midwest”, and thrived with 30% sales gains year after year. But it took its toll... one can’t simply work 10 hours a day, seven days a week, 362 days a year for so long. In late 2013, my husband and I decided to start a new adventure. I sold the real estate housing The Trinity Knot in Wilmington.
We bought a house in Homosassa, Florida and our “new adventure” now consists of this eCommerce site: Irish Ann, Inc. We have a retail store (open every Wednesday through Sunday) in front of Howard's Market on Suncoast Blvd. in Homosassa. We also vend at 18 Florida festivals throughout the year. As always, I'll be bringing you the best of Ireland. All Irish, All The Time!
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