For members of the area’s Irish community, Mary Tierney has created an oasis.
At her store in North Riverdale, Irish music, traditional and modern, is always playing. Crunchie bars — with a golden honeycomb middle wrapped in Cadbury milk chocolate — are for sale by the handful and the soda bread is a dense delight.
Ms. Tierney, originally from County Cavan in Ireland, founded the eponymous shop five years ago, after two decades of working in Manhattan, serving up other people’s recipes.
She launched Tierney’s Fine Food’s after 20 years at Burke & Burke, a now-defunct food and catering chain in Manhattan which briefly operated a store in Riverdale. She first came to New York for a brief stint in 1983, just out of college and needing to pay off a college loan.
“I loved the atmosphere, the freedom, the availability of work,” she said.
Five of her six brothers already lived in the city, and when she returned in 1985, she decided to stay permanently.
At Burke & Burke, where she started as a cashier, she discovered a passion for food.
“Prior to that, I didn’t really know that food could be presented beautifully,” Ms. Tierney said.
She worked her way up the rungs of management, eventually overseeing four of the company’s stores and along the way, she began to consider opening a store of her own.
“It took a lot of years before I realized it was possible for me to do it, and quite a few more years to have the courage to do it, to take the risk and invest the money and not think I’d end up on the side of the street,” she recalled.
When she did take the leap, her brothers were there to help. The storefront she picked, on Mosholu Avenue, wasn’t in great shape and needed to be fixed up inside and out. The whole family worked together to get the place up to code and appealing to potential customers.
After Ms. Tierney’s store opened, she was working “seven days a week, 18 hours a day. [It] felt like tremendous pressure, like I could never forget about the store,” she said.
Her first St. Patrick’s Day in Riverdale helped make her mark on the neighborhood. For two straight nights leading up to the big day, Ms. Tierney and her staff baked bread, cooked corn beef and peeled potatoes in preparation for an influx of customers.