Trade Center Drive is mainly a warehouse district, but retail businesses occasionally pop up. Off the beaten path is putting it mildly–it makes Airport Blvd. look like Main Street. But if you can find the lane that snakes off Ellsworth between the US-23 and I-94 overpasses, the building numbers are well marked, and there’s no reason why the tenants can’t use their little front offices as retail space. The Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory started here. Kasoa African Market, with its shelves of peanut and cocoa butter products, vivid bolts of African prints and brocade, and other things that make members of Ann Arbor’s West African community feel like they’re home, came in a few years ago.
The newest store on Trade Center Drive is Stuart Marley’s Out of Ireland. Marley has been selling his Irish crafts at Celtic festivals all over the country for many years now. Ten years ago, he briefly tried it downtown with a kiosk near Conor O’Neill’s.
At the moment he’s selling two very different lines of Irish merchandise, and he’s hoping that having open warehouse hours at Trade Center Drive will combine the best of the online and retail worlds, allowing people to browse online and buy on site.
Marley is Irish to the core (the name, he says, would originally have been O’Mearlaigh). Red of hair, lilting and loquacious of tongue, he’s difficult to quote in a column space labeled “Briefly Noted,” so, except for a brief taste of his entertaining commentary, we’ll summarize.
His first business is Irish tweeds from Donegal and other crafts and accessories from elsewhere in the Irish Republic. His best sellers are men’s caps–a “vintage flat cap” and an “eight-piece newsboy cap,” from fabric hand woven by Eddie Doherty of Ardara, who is, he claims, the best hand weaver in all of Ireland.
His second business is officially licensed Irish soccer gear, and Marley promises the best price, highest quality, and most complete selection of jerseys and other training wear for both adults and kids anywhere in the country. Marley has more than a passing interest in soccer. His son Liam McGehee Marley graduated from Pioneer last year and is currently in north Wales on a soccer trial trying to get a pro contract.
Asked why he continually specifies “north Wales,” he quickly replied, “Well, you see, the north thinks it’s better than the south. The south thinks it’s better than the north. God help you if you live in the middle. They probably have issues too, like the middle child.”
Kasoa African Market, 3940 Trade Center Dr. 975-2399. Mon.-Fri. 12:30-8:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Out of Ireland, 3890 Trade Center Dr. 846-2025. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Sat. & Sun. www.realirish.com and www.theirishsoccershop.com