Sophie Bolich

European Food Store Opening Near Washington Park

Opening May 6, O'Malley's offers Irish and British products.

By - May 3rd, 2023 01:41 pm
Orla (left), Gerard Campbell and Colleen O'Malley-Campbell. Photo taken May 3, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Orla (left), Gerard Campbell and Colleen O’Malley-Campbell. Photo taken May 3, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Milwaukee’s food scene is as diverse as its population — with specialty markets to match. Mexican, Polish and Asian grocery stores abound in the city, but where is one to go when a craving for ketchup crisps, beans on toast or Jammie Dodgers strikes?

The answer, starting May 6, is O’Malley’s. The European food store, 5423 W. Vliet St., focuses on Irish and British staples that are otherwise difficult to find in the states.

Gerard Campbell, who is originally from Northern Ireland, runs the store along with his wife, Colleen O’Malley-Campbell, and the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Orla.

“It’s not just about the treats up there,” said O’Malley-Campbell, gesturing at a shelf filled with gummy candies. “It’s real, home-cooking items that people want to have.”

Staples at O’Malley’s include custard — Bird’s, not Kopp’s — gravy powder, curry sauce, pickles, chocolate and gummy candy, condiments, tea and coffee, as well as frozen items like sausage rolls, cottage and shepherd’s pie, bangers and black and white pudding.

Household goods such as cologne, Radox body wash and chunks of Irish turf are also available.

“It’s as if you’ve walked into an Irish grocery store,” said O’Malley-Campbell, who also works as a food services supervisor at Froedtert. “This would be pretty much the same. Except the eggs aren’t sitting out on the counter,” she added laughingly.

The store also stocks an assortment of Irwin’s bread, a company based in Campbell’s hometown of Portadown.

“It all comes full circle,” he said.

Prior to O’Malley’s, the space was occupied by a similar shop called Tralee Irish Imports. After the store’s mid-March closure, Campbell took over the space, tweaked the layout and changed the name.

Just over a month later, the shelves at O’Malley’s are stocked and ready to welcome customers at the upcoming grand opening.

Though many of the store’s products are sourced from overseas, the couple are eager to feature local businesses and makers whenever possible.

A shelf near the store’s entrance is filled with pieces from local artists, including handmade birdhouses, carved wooden frames and Celtic crosses. There’s also a handful of pieces from Amelia Bursi, a floral preservationist who creates elaborate artworks from dried flower petals.

The wall above the shelf features framed photos from various Irish landscapes and scenery.

“People will come in and say ‘oh, I remember seeing the goats in the west of Ireland,’ or ‘I remember the Cliffs of Moher,'” Campbell said. “So we try to continue to support other small ventures in the Milwaukee area that are promoting Irish and Celtic cultures.”

The couple expect much of the store’s customer base to come from the surrounding community, as well as former residents of European countries and those who studied abroad overseas.

“It’s a great feeling when people come in from Ireland or England or Scotland, and you just know,” Campbell said. “You hear the accent and you’re just getting into a different frame of mind and you talk fast or you back to your normal speed. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.”

As the store becomes more established in the neighborhood, the couple said they hope to expand to offer products from other regions such as Germany.

As for customers’ requests for specific products, which range from flour to ketchup crisps, “we’ll do our darndest,” Campbell said.

Starting this Saturday, May 6, O’Malley’s will be open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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