New BI store features Celtic creations, music

Set back from the street in the Orchard Plaza on Winslow Way, a handmade wool coat and cap welcome visitors inside Celtic Crossroads Northwest, a multi-generational family business dedicated to importing fine handmade woolens, jewelry and gifts from artisans in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall in England.

Owners Debbie and Maxx Sonandre’s store is filled with products made throughout the Celtic Nations. After an open house complete with whiskey tastings and bagpipes, the community response has been positive, Debbie said.

After working in the family business in Port Townsend for 15 years, the duo moved to Poulsbo and opened the Bainbridge shop to be closer to Seattle-based customers. As the primary buyer, Sonandre travels to the Celtic Isles to find artisans who make authentic products for her store.

“When you support us, you are supporting mom-and-pop shops throughout the Celtic Nations as well as supporting small and local,” Sonandre said. “We’ve connected with a lot of Scottish and Irish people by doing the festivals that are primarily on that side of the water, so we established a good Seattle base of customers. It was a little more difficult to get to Port Townsend. So they’ve been very excited to be able to hop on a ferry and just come over and visit.”

Sonandre said the number of Celtic product stores has dwindled in the past 15 years from approximately 500 to about 220. She attributes that to the aging population of store owners, the COVID pandemic, and several natural disasters that damaged stores across the United States.

Sonandre is of Celtic descent and shares her cultural knowledge with customers. “We don’t have any of the ‘Made in China’ products,” Sonandre said. “One of the things I find really encouraging about my Irish and Scottish, and Welsh and Cornish markets, is that both of those markets are really clear on where their product is made. If it is not made by a company in Ireland, and it has to be outsourced, they go and make sure that the people they’re working with are being paid properly and have good working conditions. I put a lot of faith in my vendors, but I have yet to have any of them be called out as being fraudulent.”

A couple of times a year, Sonandre meets with her vendors. “I’ve met everybody that they have working for them, and I’ve traveled to some of the places to watch these things being made.”

Fans of historical fashion will find tartan and wool items popularized by TV shows Outlander and Bridgerton. Sonandre said the public has embraced Celtic culture, making tartans more fashionable, not just about heritage. “There’s a lot of beautiful tartans that are coming that are more fashion-oriented.”

The store carries a Jack Murphy “Sinead” coat worn as a men’s jacket on Bridgerton and a wool cape worn on Outlander.

The shelves and walls display colorful wool sweaters, capes, caps, scarves, and gloves. Tucked in the back of the store is Maxx’s studio, a space created for live music and art made by local artisans. Handmade violins, paintings, woodwork, metalwork, and whiskey are all there to tempt the community to partake in events the Sonandre’s hope to showcase the timeless allure of Celtic music and heritage.