By Sydney Stallcup
Downtown Lexington is home to quite a few Irish-owned businesses. McCarthy’s Irish Bar was named after the original McCarthy’s in Fethard County, Tipperary, Ireland, one of Ireland’s oldest unchanged pubs originally established in 1850. Horse and Jockey Pub‘s owner, Paul Murphy, is Scottish but spent part of his childhood in Ireland, and his pub offers an authentic Irish atmosphere. Fáilte Irish Imports, located on South Upper Street, is owned by Liza Betz who immigrated to the United States from Dublin in 1996 and sells Irish and Scottish goods.
We had the opportunity to speak with Liza, owner of Fáilte Irish Imports. She opened her shop in December 2001 and has been providing a diverse selection of fine goods from Ireland and Scotland to Lexington for over 20 years! We talked all about her journey of becoming a business owner, her connection with the Irish community and other Irish business owners and what’s been rewarding about seeing the success of her business in Downtown Lexington over these past 20+ years.
Q: How did you go about opening your own business?
Liza: I came to America in 1996. I got a job at McCarthy’s Irish Bar and worked there for 3 years and I started managing there. I knew that the lifestyle and late nights and all that wasn’t going to be for me forever. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, everybody in my family is an entrepreneur. I realized that one thing Kentucky was missing was our food. So, I decided that I was going to open an Irish shop. I called my mom, because once I knew I was going to do that I knew I wasn’t going to go home. So, I called my mom and asked her if I should stay or should I go and she said, “I’ve seen your life in America, I think you should stay.” So I did.
Lexington is very close within the Irish community. We all know each other. Ted Campion, he went to school with my brother, asked me “Hey, what are you going to do? What’s going on”. I was at a point where I was going to have to make a decision so I said I was thinking of opening an Irish shop. He said “How much do you think it will cost?” and I gave him a number and he said, “Call me Monday morning at 9 o’clock.” I didn’t really know what that meant, but I called him at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. He said, “I’ve got the money and everything for you to open the shop.” So then I found a place up the road on Limestone Street and there was a really nice landlord who was just the nicest guy and he actually had his business next door. When I opened the doors it was completely empty. We didn’t have much, but all the Irish community came and supported me. Within a year I gave him his money back and even gave him some profit. And it’s been mine ever since. That was in 2001.
Q: What is rewarding about seeing the success of an Irish business in Downtown Lexington?
Liza: It shows us that the community here is strong. It shows us that the culture here is strong. It’s good to bring culture to different places for everyone’s sake. Diversity is awesome and culture is brilliant.
I never look at myself as a success. I take every day as it comes. I wouldn’t call myself a success, I would call myself lucky I suppose. We’ve been through everything. You’ve just got to keep your head on your shoulders and don’t let the bad things weigh you down. Tomorrow is a new day.
Q: Other than your business are you involved in anything else promoting the Irish community?
Liza: I help organize the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival. I am the Vice President. Before covid, we did some Irish bake-offs that were great fun and we hope to start that again soon.
Q: Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would like to say?
Liza: I would just like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us. You know, that’s the hardest thing about having a small business, getting your product out there, and getting people to support you.
Thank you again to Liza for taking her time during this busy time to talk with us! Pay Liza a visit at Fáitle Irish Import Shop located at 113 S Upper Street and shop her diverse selection of fine goods imported from Ireland and Scotland and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram for updates and adorable photos! You can also visit their website here to shop online or learn more about the shop.