Q and A: John Flanagan at Flanagan’s Celtic Corner

June 8, 2012

John Flanagan is three parts Irish, one part French Canadian. The Quebec side gets little thought and no space at his shop, Flanagan’s Celtic Corner, 222 E. Congress St. Flanagan opened the shop in November 2007 after three years of selling merchandise at the Highland Games in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff and setting up booths at St. Patrick’s Day parades. Flanagan has a preferred way to address him. It’s not John.

John Flanagan with the luck of the Irish.

Flanagan: I go by Flano.

Q: Why?

Flanagan: That’s my nickname from the military. There were lots of Johns everywhere.

Q: What branch did you serve in?

Flanagan: I’m Air Force retired, 16 years, 4 months and 11 days. I got my blue card (Air Force retirement benefits) for the rest of my life.

Q: What were your duties?

Flanagan: I was a Russian-German linguist. I was 9½ years in Germany. I was working the EC-138 jamming platform at Davis-Monthan. I retired here.

Q: Why did you stay here?

Flanagan: I love it. Believe it or not, I love the heat. I grew up in Massachusetts with snow and sleet and shoveling. The outside temperature of my car was 74 degrees at 1 in the morning the other day. Yeah!

Q: Celtic Corner isn’t your only job.

Flanagan: Right now, I’m working at American Airlines. By 24 August I’m done. [700 people were recently laid off at the local American Airlines call center.]

Q: What do you do at American Airlines?

Flanagan: I work in reservations, 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., Monday to Friday. That definitely is self-inflicted.

Q: How are you able to run Celtic Corner and work at American Airlines?

Flanagan: Not much sleep. That’s the only way.

Q: Why did you need a job?

Flanagan: Because the store does not quite support itself.

Q: You’re gonna have a lot of time on your hands.

Flanagan: I do about 10 hours a day with American Airlines and getting ready for work. That’s 10 hours freed up. I will transition to other abilities, like my photography. I have an exhibition at brewd with Ireland photos.

Q: What kind of camera do you use?

Flanagan: A Canon 7D with a 100-400mm lens. I take it everywhere with me.

Q: You’re helping people get in touch with their Irish heritage.

Flanagan: We’ve started doing initial genetic research.

Q: You can also give more attention to your store.

Flanagan: Now I have time to expand. If I can put four hours a day into Web site sales, that gives me more time for other options, like photography and genetics. I will be expanding with new items online that won’t be in the store.

Q: What are your thoughts about the streetcar?

Flanagan: That fence (between the sidewalk and the street), that’s what I’m afraid of because it keeps people from coming down.

Q: What do you think of the student housing?

Flanagan: I certainly won’t be a negative impact. I hope to get some impact out of that.

Q: You used to be chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Flanagan: I did it for three years. It was fun. It brought people Downtown. It introduced people to do new things.

Q: What is your heritage?

Flanagan: Three grandparents came from Ireland, one came from Quebec.

Q: What counties in Ireland?

A: Two grandparents from County Clare, one from County Cork.

Q: How Irish do you feel?

Flanagan: I feel very Irish. It’s not unheard of to talk with customers about what’s happening in Ireland.

Q: What’s on your mind today?

Flanagan: I just got back from an Irish step dancing competition and I’m just restocking my store.

Q: What’s the most fun new item you have?

Flanagan: This is a chess set of Leprechauns vs. Brownies, the Irish vs. the Scottish. It represents all 32 (Irish) counties on the board. [Naturally, that includes the six counties of British-controlled Northern Ireland]

Q: How long have you been in Tucson?

Flanagan: 1990, I believe.

Q: Where do you like to eat Downtown?

Flanagan: I do eat at the HUB. I do like the Cup Café. Brewd is good for a cup of coffee and to just to sit down for a while.

Q: What’s your favorite Downtown event?

Flanagan: The St. Patrick’s Day, of course. I like the Parade of Lights. It brings out the photographer thing. Anything that’s a parade I like.

Q: You have people from Ireland shopping at Celtic Corner and Tucsonans who have been to Ireland. What’s that all about?

Flanagan: I went to Ireland last year. What they offer is what I offer. I will say my items over there are a lot more expensive. I have people who go to Ireland and they come here to buy their souvenirs to give as gifts because they are too expensive in Ireland.

Q: What’s Celtic Corner all about?

Flanagan: I carry every from gifts to novelties. Everything is Celtic themed: Irish, Scottish, Welsh. Anything that’s of a generic Celtic nature: druidic, fairies.

Q: What are your biggest sellers?

Flanagan: The biggest thing for me is the jewelry, mainly the Irish claddagh, two hands holding a heart with a heart on top.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing lately?

Flanagan: I can offer eight styles of kilts for weddings now. These are professional kilts. Nobody is offering them in Arizona now. You rent it and turn it back in, just like a tuxedo.