Irish Daily Mail

Floury tale of New York! How Mary cooked up a fortune with her lockdown idea

- By Lizzie May

A MILLION dollars is a lot of dough – but that’s how much a struggling Irish mammy made from selling scones in New York in just a 24-hour period.

Mayo-born Mary O’Halloran cooked up the sweet idea when the pandemic shut her Manhattan pub, Mary O’s.

And it was her tasty soda bread scone recipe – passed down from her mother – combined with some savvy Celtic-hued online publicity that blended to become the perfect ingredient­s for the mother-of-six to draw the massive order.

Her family-run Irish bar in New York created an online shop selling scones, but she never believed she’d make $1million (€850,000) in the space of a day.

Ms O’Halloran came up with the idea to make soda bread scones during lockdown in an attempt to make ends meet for her and her six children, aged eight to 17, as finances became thin, and rent had to be paid.

The Humans of New York Instagram page features a unique story of someone in the Big Apple at least once a week, and after Ms O’Halloran’s story of struggle was shared to its 11.2million followers, more than $1million worth of scone orders came in within 24 hours. Ms O’Halloran’s Humans of New York interview appeared on the photoblog on Thursday of last week, and she said in the video: ‘We got shut down two days before St Patrick’s Day. Always the biggest day for an Irish bar.

‘My husband is a longshorem­an, so he was trapped in the Aleutian Islands for nine months – no flights out. It was just me and six kids that needed home-schooling.

‘I pulled all the furniture out of the bar and made a section for each of them: pillow, blankets, everything they needed. Then I had to figure out how to survive. Other bar owners were just throwing their hands [up in defeat], but I had to try something.

‘I began catering dinners for emergency workers at a nearby hotel. It wasn’t much money, but it was something to do. Each night I’d cook dinner for 30 people. The kids would help when they could: peeling potatoes, washing dishes... I’d be so exhausted every day.

‘Everyone had so much faith in me to survive. Maybe because I keep the tough side out – everyone assumed I was OK.

‘Nobody knew I was full of worries. But it was so freakin’ hard. To keep the kids happy... Month after month I’m falling further behind on the rent. It felt like the walls were closing in.’

But Ms O’Halloran’s regulars kept showing up and always lent a hand; they would run errands for her and take her children on walks to give her a break.

A group of Irish musicians who played there every Thursday night also helped her set up an online store, so that she could sell her tasty scones, with homemade blackberry jam, to her customers.

The simple recipe became hugely popular back in January after reporter Roger Clark, from TV channel NY1, ran a story on how Ms O’Halloran had been running the bar alone, and the show’s anchors tasted the scones live on TV – creating great hype for a few months, but not generating a great deal of money.

She was making €1,800 for 100 boxes of scones, earning her some cash to tide her over, but not enough to cover rent and bills.

Costs were adding up, but when Humans Of New York author Brandon Stanton shared the story, with his own note that gave incentive to his followers to help Ms O’Halloran and her family, the dough started to roll in fast.

‘I know there’s a volcano of big scone hype that’s about to erupt, so here’s our plan. Mary normally charges $18 for an order of scones, but as she’s explained there’s barely any money in it for her,’ Mr Stanton wrote.

‘I do know that there’s a lot of bargain-hunting scone fanatics out there. But I also know that many of you are “scone curious” and would love to support Mary.

‘If you fall into the second category, I’ve put together a special offer for you. For $30 you can get an order of scones, and a limitededi­tion drawing from Mary’s daughter Erinn. Depending on the amount of orders, the drawing might not be highly intricate. A lassie’s gotta do her homework.’

His idea went further, with each box including an invisible ‘Irish blessing’ to be passed down through the generation­s.

When Mr Stanton suggested raising prices, Ms O’Halloran started to cry, saying people are hurting more than her. But the idea worked, and just 24 hours later, 25,000 orders, which is 150,000 scones and over $1million, came flying into the Irish bar.

Mr Stanton wrote of the night where the orders flooded in: ‘The craic was 90 last night at Mary O’s as a wave of big scone hype crested right in the middle of Irish Music Night. Over $1,000,000 worth of soda bread scones were sold. But you’d never know from watching Mary. There was ne’er a tremble in her hand as she dished out shepherd pies and Guinness pints. Though to be honest – her composure mainly stemmed from her refusal to look at the number.

‘Every one of those orders came from people who want the best for her. And I felt confident that we’d all be patient while she figured out a new process for making scones.

‘Mary has a great team around her. She refers to them as “The Regulars” as if they’re a squad of superheroe­s, but they’re actually long-time customers who transform into volunteers at a moment’s notice.’

He made a point to the people who purchased any of the 25,000 boxes of delicious Irish scones that Mary will deliver them as fast as she can, but if you absolutely need your scones in the coming days or weeks, then people are free to request a refund.

‘For everyone else, your scones will drop from the sky like a pleasant Irish rain,’ Mr Stanton continued. ‘And when the box is opened, your descendant­s will be blessed for a minimum of 90 generation­s. Thanks to all of you and may the road rise to meet you.’

‘I had to figure out how to survive’

‘Ne’er a tremble in her hand’

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Sweet response: Mary O’Halloran’s scones, a picture by her daughter Erinn and, right, the mother and daughter team
Sweet response: Mary O’Halloran’s scones, a picture by her daughter Erinn and, right, the mother and daughter team

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland